Grapenuts Bubbly Blowout Dec 1st 2010

We love seeking the best sparklers for our holiday party at the Renaissance Hotel (530p-9p) in downtown Pittsburgh, what fun we will have with this bubbly line up from around the world!    This event is open to the public, all are welcome!   Especially for us, Chef Brian Volmrich (formerly of the Inn at Little Washington) will create a selection of awesome appetizers that will work well with our special sparklers!   Although last minute changes are possible, here is the tentative group of sparklers for the Blowout:

Codorniu Brut Reserva Cuvee Raventos NV – Spain – Finely Textured, citrus, mineral finish – a solid Spanish Cava.

Zardetto Prosecco Brut – Italy – Soft and fruity, a friendly Italian bubbly.

Pascual Toso Brut NV – Argentina – Bright and fresh, an unapologetic Argentine.

Bouvet Brut Rose – France – Dry with red fruit flavors and crisp finish, luxurious French Rose.

Laetitia Brut Cuvee – California – Complex sparkler starts with citrus and apple followed by earthy, dry finish, fascinating!

Gruet Brut NV – New Mexico – Fine bubbles with layered flavors of green apple and toast leading to very dry finish, French style from USA.

Taittinger Cuvee Prestige – Champagne, France – The top of the heap!  Complex, rich and creamy with earthy, red berry fruit notes followed by a delicate, yeasty finish – Beautiful!

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Dry Rose “Revolution” ?? Sure!

Some Australian growers led by De Bortoli ( have suggested a November 30 ‘revolution’ – to promote dry styles of rose.   Having recently spent some time in southern France where dry rose is widely available, it is a style that I very much enjoy.   So if we want to join the “Rose Revolution”, we should all try a dry rose on November 30th and savor the wonderful flavor balance of the dry style rose – described by the ‘revolution’ promoters and a wine “for grown ups” (  Many popular dry rose wines come from the Mediterranian wine making regions and well-known grape varietals such as Pinot Noir, Grenache, Mourvédre and Syrah (but not limited to these).

Seems like a great idea to me – if you decide to join in, please make sure you are purchasing a rose that is young – seek out the 2009 vintage (or younger if looking at Southern Hemisphere wines) – the fresher the better in my opinion…. enjoy!

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Four Interesting Australian Wines: Two Chards and Two Shiraz

Here are some notes on the wines we tasted prior to Quantum Theatre’s ( brilliant production of “When the rain stops falling” – we tasted some complex wines to match up with the complex production!

Wishing Tree Unoaked Chardonnay 2008 – West Australia – Sourced from Western Australia vineyards just outside of Perth (largest city in West Australia).   This chardonnay is purposely not aged in oak barrels so that only the chardonnay fruit flavors come through in the wine, a currently popular response to many ‘over-oaked’ chardonnays dominating the market in the past few years.  Bright flavors of apple, peach, pear and citrus show through nicely with crisp finish that reminds me of the Burgundy Whites from the Macon region – clean, fruity and crisp.

Penfold’s Koonunga Hill Chardonnay 2009 – South Australia – One of Australia’s most reliable wine producers, Penfolds has built a worldwide reputation on affordable and pleasing mass-market wines like this South Australian chardonnay.  The grapes are sourced from properties around South Australia and the wine spends several months in small oak barriques – something usually reserved for much more expensive wines.  Creamy tropical and oaky-citrus flavors are dominant in this wine. 

Wishing Tree Shiraz 2007 – West Australia – Like the Wishing Tree Chardonnay, the grapes for this wine are sourced only from West Australia, specifically the region south of Perth near Margaret River.  This Shiraz is bright and flavorful in a medium bodied wine, with typical blackberry and red fruit notes followed by a lightly spicy finish.  Considering the price point this is a very satisfying wine in a very competitive category.

Bremerton Old Adam Shiraz 2002 – South Australia – Recent vintages of this wine received huge attention; the 2004 vintage scoring alongside the “Grange” as one of Australia’s best wines.   The Wilson family has produced grapes in the past but over the last decade or so has started making beautiful wines.   This 2002 Shiraz benefits from some years in the bottle, allowing harsh edges to smooth out and lush savory textures and flavors of plum and dark berries to come forward followed by a long lingering finish.  An intriguing wine, clearly less fruit-driven than many modern and popular Australian Shiraz, showing depth and savory layers that will be a great match for food.

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Three wines for Jack’s Tuesday November 16th Tasting at Braddock’s

Below are three wines that will be featured by-the-glass at next week’s Braddock’s American Brasserie Tuesday Tasting for only $5 per glass (located at the Renaissance Hotel downtown Pittsburgh).  I will review and discuss new wines every Tuesday – all people and opinions are welcome – should be fun!

Gloria Ferrer’s Sonoma Brut NV is a Pinot Noir dominated sparkling wine made in the traditional technique of Champagne makers in Champagne France – méthode champenoise.   The tiny bubbles rushing through the light gold colored wine certainly make the sparkler look like a traditional Champagne, but we know it is from Sonoma California, no slouch when it comes to wine-making.   The wine is crisp and light but with an undercurrent complexity afforded by the high percentage of Pinot Noir (over 90%) blended with Chardonnay.  Through the finish there are initial notes of pear and apple with a hint of creamy strawberry underneath, followed by a mineral and toasty notes at the end.  A solid American value in sparkling wines…

Nobilo New Zealand Savignon Blanc 2009 – New Zealand has successfully captured the wine world’s interest with its Sauvignon Blancs, mainly from the Marlborough Region.   Nobilo’s 2009 Sauvignon Blanc is a representative of this very popular type:  Clear straw yellow color, with a bouquet of lemon and lime, the wine presents a juicy mouthful of crisp lime, tropical fruits and grapefruit flavors followed by a tight, lingering finish.  While this SB is fuller and more gripping than many Bordeaux Blanc blends that define many people’s ideas of a SB based white wine, as with many NZ SBs, the wine nearly makes you pucker, but stops just short of being too tart.

The 2008 Navarro Correas Malbec presents itself as a dark purplish wine with slightly floral aromas combining with dark fruit and cherry scents.  The Argentine vineyards for this wine are generally above 3,000 ft elevation which is common to Argentine wine makers – and sets the wine apart from the traditional Malbec makers in the Cohors region in southern France.  This Malbec is medium bodied and delivers flavors of plum and blackberry with a light tannin structure and notes of  herbs and vanilla, finishing with a smoky, savory flavors – overall balance is good.

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Franz Reinhart Bernkasteler Kurfurstlay Riesling Kabinett 2009

This Kabinett class German Riesling (we will discuss German wine classifications at a later time), in an attractive tall bottle, with an equally attractive price, should be on your list when seeking a food-friendly wine to share with wine-lovers and others who are typically not enthusiastic for wine.

The nose shows strong apple citrus elements with a note of sweetness.  The first sip shows that this Riesling has some viscosity, and a little bit of sweetness at mid palate, but fortunately the sweetness is clean and not at all sticky.  There is a definite start, middle, finish order to the flavors in this wine – starting with a burst of juicy, apple and lime flavors, followed by a mid-palate sweetness that turns later to a finish that continues the acidity present throughout, but with a touch of mineral at the end.   No part of the flavor experience is jagged or rough – instead, it is clean and fresh throughout.   A bargain right now in Pennsylvania (currently $8.99 in PA), for a wine that might be a great introduction wine to friends who are unfamiliar with German wines, or wines in general, since the flavors are pleasing and the alcohol level is relatively low for modern wines (8.5%).

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Codorniu Brut Reserva Cuvee Raventos NV

One look at the bell-shaped bottle of Codorniu Brut Reserva Cuvee Raventos NV, and you are led to believe this is a sophisticated sparkler.  Indeed the appearance is one of a more expensive product than the sale price of $9.99 in Pennsylvania State Stores.

At first pour, the Cava’s color is light and golden with very small bubbles, which for me hint at a well-made sparkling wine.   The lightly pleasant aromas include pear, citrus and a hint of pineapple.  Fine texture and slightly frothy mouth feel – Flavors are light and toasty with nutty flavors combined with green apple and citrus, followed at the end with a fine mousse and mineral finish.  The grapes for this sparkler are the traditional Cava blend (50% Xarel-lo and Macabeo grapes) with the addition of Champagne stalwart Chardonnay (50%).  Overall a very nice and unusually delicate Cava – clearly worth consideration at this price – but drink it soon, since Codorniu suggests consuming as fresh as possible (within 10 months of purchase).

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