Tag Archives: Wine and Food

One Last Post Before the End of the World! A Week in Atlanta.

Apparently the world is going to end this evening so I figured I’d better get a post up before everything broke loose.  I’ve been in Atlanta, GA this week promoting Emma Pearl as well as attending the women’s blogger conference BlogHer-Food.  One of the seminars I’ve enjoyed the most was on using social media (i.e. Twitter and Facebook) to network.  I do use both however I use Twitter for more business related topics and Facebook for its original use which is keeping up with friends.  However the funniest revelation came towards the middle of the talk when everyone started talking about following metrics on their site traffic.  These included how many visitors came to their sites, where they came from etc…  I currently don’t use metrics and just as I was getting really worried that I was missing really critical data for my website all the speakers agreed that you could get too bogged down in reading the numbers and told all the people present to not look at them.  This was because they all felt they wrote better posts before they had the numbers.  Hmmm, perhaps being in the dark is good?

Anyway, I’ve been on a market blitz this week which entails going around to a ton of restaurants and small retailers to see if they’d be interested in selling my wines on their lists or in their stores.  I’ve done this before in SC last month but this was a much busier week filled with events including a winemaker dinner and hand selling the wines in Whole Foods.  I really enjoyed this part of it because I was able to connect with people who will be drinking the wines directly. 

While I’ve been gone, back in Napa we’ve gotten close to another 2 inches of precipitation this week in the form of both rain and hail.  So far this year is shaping up to be much like 2010; lots of rain and quite a bit of cool weather.  I’m interested to see if more vines are blooming when I return on Sunday. 

I’ve had some really nice wines this week including the 2009 Karl Kaspar Riesling Kabinett from Nahe Germany (Zesty and Fruity).  This was a medium sweet wine filled with white peache and apricot flavors as well as some underlying flinty notes.  I paired it with a Tuna Tartar with Asian inspired slaw which was fantastic!!  Another notable wine this week was the 2008 Sancerre from Chateau de Sancerre (Stone and Chalk) which was very dry and refreshing with really intriguing flavors of wet river rock and dried herbs.  As I look back over my notes I’ve noticed I’ve stuck with the white wines this week. 

My thanks to all in Atlanta who’ve made this week so fantastic!  This really is a great city and I’ve enjoyed every moment!

What is a Dessert Wine?

This post was inspired by one of my avid readers (Thanks to Craig!).  My, off the cuff, answer to this question is a dessert wine is one which has enough sweetness to pair well with the final course of a meal, usually dessert, or be served as the dessert.  Jancis Robinson’s Oxford Companion to Wine also notes that in America this qualification is based on Alcohol content between 14-24 %.  Funny enough this would put a large number of dry red wines in to the dessert wine category as well.  However for the purposes of this post I’m going to stick with the stickies (wine geek term for sweet wines)!  I describe their personality as Sweet and Luscious.

For a little winemaking background, sweetness in a wine is known as Residual Sugar (or RS for short) and is usually quoted in grams per Liter (g/L) or % sugar.  The name for this sweetness is derived from the amount of sugar remaining after primary fermentation (the conversion of sugar by yeast to alcohol and CO2) has completed, hence the Residual part. However that is only one way that sugar can arrive in the finished wine.   Sugar can also be added in the form of grape juice, grape concentrate, or some other non-grape derived sweetening agents, depending on the laws of the country of production.

There are many famous types of dessert wines and I encourage anyone truly interested in wine to try them all to get an idea as to what is available.  Sweet wine does not automatically mean cheap wine or bad wine so throw the pre-conceptions out the door as we move in to the three main styles of dessert wines.

Fortified Sweet Wines

These wines are sweet because the primary fermentation was abruptly stopped by adding a high alcohol dose to the fermentation vessel.  Most yeast does not function well above 14.5% alcohol and this addition kills them instantly.  This leaves the remaining sugar in the fermentation as sweetness in the finished wine.  Port is likely the most well known of the Fortified Sweet Wines and with alcohols around 19% they are very distinctive.  True Port comes from the country of Portugal although there are many good producers of Port-style wines elsewhere in the world.  Other than dessert, Port and Port-style wines pair well with strong cheeses like Roquefort, figs and fig cakes, as well as almonds and Brazil nuts for Tawny styles of ports. Other fortified sweet wines include certain types of Sherries, Madeiras, Rutherglen Muscats, and Vin Doux Naturels.

Botrytized Wines

 

When grapes are attacked by a fungus called Botrytis (Pronounced Bo-try-tus) it can lead to one of two outcomes; a nasty rotten mess or beautiful sweet wines.  The fungus, when headed the more positive of the two ways, dehydrates the grapes while still on the vine leading to a concentration of sugars, acids, and flavors.  Botrytis also gives additional complexity to the wines through flavors such as orange marmalade, mushrooms, and honey.  My favorite Botrytized wines come from Sauternes, France where the three varieties; Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Muscadelle turn into liquid gold with intense aromatics and crisp finishes.  These wines pair well with strong flavored foods such as asparagus, fois gras, truffles, strong cheeses, and dried fruits. Other notable Botrytized wines are Tokaj from Hungary (the oldest of the Botrytized wines), and the Ausleses, Beerenausleses and Trokenbeerenausleses from Germany, the Rheingau region specifically.

Ice Wines

 

These types of wines are produced when the grapes freeze on the vine and are then harvested and pressed while still frozen leaving much of the natural water content at ice in the skins and creating a very pure fruit flavored, almost syrup-like wine, typically bottled in small 375mL bottles.  While Germany pioneered this style, which is called Eiswein, my favorites come from the Niagara region of Canada.  Typically produced from Riesling or Vidal Blanc, these wines are very enjoyable in small amounts and can be easily paired with cheese and dried fruits as well as desserts.  In rare years a Cabernet Franc Ice Wine can be produced and is also worth the search if you’re interested.  Austria also produces Ice Wines from both Riesling and Gruner Veltliner, although the latter is harder to find. 

 

Dessert wines are a fun family of wines that are fairly easy to find and usually enjoyed by a wide variety of people even if they are not avid wine drinkers.  Also, there are some really great bargains to be found because dessert wines are not usually as sought after as their less sweet cousins.  However as with all high alcohol or intensely flavored foods or drinks, a little bit of dessert wine goes a long way so be sure and have a few friends to share in the discovery if you are going to open several bottles to compare.  It makes a fun wine tasting night to have some select foods and different sweet wines to discover your own favorite pairings.  To find dessert wines I’ve written tasting notes for, look for wines labeled Sweet and Luscious 

It’s a tough job but someone has to do it… :)

Every now and then there are days where I get frustrated at the world in general but those are fairly rare.  There are also days where I have to pinch myself that I get paid to make wine.  I had one of those days this week where the other winemakers and I were able to sit down, open a couple of bottles of wine, and pitch around tasting notes for marketing.  First I love writing tasting notes and it’s not often when you get a couple of people in the same room just discussing the wine for the sake of writing a single note.  It’s fun.  The power of suggestion definitely comes into play as distinctive descriptors are thrown around and mulled over by everyone else.  The wines are already in the bottle so we’re not trying to decide if we need to blend something in or make another addition.  It’s purely the winemakers trying to pull out the best ideas as to how to describe our wine now.  The four wines’ notes are listed below.

Souverain 2009 Sauvignon Blanc, Alexander Valley

Zesty and Fruity

A clear lemon core with moderately intense aromas of key lime, passion fruit, mango, and wet chalk introduces this wine.  A dry palate with moderately high acid, Med + alcohol, and a tiny bit of oak tannins for texture finishes with flavors of lime zest, guava, wet chalk, and passion fruit with a moderate and clean length. Pair with fresh salads, herb crusted salmon, or roast chicken with tarragon sauce.

Souverain 2008 Winemaker’s Reserve Chardonnay, Russian River

Buttery Beauty

A medium-gold core and intense aromas of pineapple, honey, and caramel are accented by a wisp of smoke on the nose.  A dry, creamy palate filled with poached pears, cardamom, caramel, and honeycomb balances a toasted French oak backdrop. Drink now or hold for more development of honeyed notes on the palate. Enjoy with blue cheese, creamy sun-dried tomato sauce over pasta, or cinnamon poached pears.

Souverain 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon, Alexander Valley

Power Punch

A deep ruby core is highlighted by intense aromas of blackberry, blueberry, black cherry, chocolate, cedar, and baking spices.  The dry palate and moderate acid are perfectly balanced by velvet textured tannins.  Flavors of chocolate, cloves, black cherry, ginger, cigar box, and lavender tease the senses leading to a long luxurious finish.  This wine will shine for years either by itself or paired with juicy steaks or Black forest cake.

Souverain 2006 Winemaker’s Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon

Power Punch

An amazing nose filled with black cherry, wild blackberries, cloves, and pomegranates highlighted by a deep ruby color is the introduction for this lovely wine.  Dry with dusty, fine grained tannins that mesh with baking spices, black fruits, and Tahitian vanilla for a long, lively finish is just the beginning of this wine’s life.  With the capacity to age over 15 years while developing richer notes of black mission fig and dates, this wine is a collector’s dream. When paired with the finest cuts of pepper crusted, aged beef this wine truly shines.

I love my job!!! 🙂