The Last Wine Book Club

Last year Dr. Debs over at Good Wine Under $20 proposed the idea that every month wine bloggers would get together, choose a book on wine, and all read it and review it. Initially I was excited because I have a ton of wine books sitting around.  But then reality set in and in all honesty I have neither the time nor the energy to make it through a book a month.  It’s a sad state of affairs, I’ll admit, but 3 years out I’m still recovering from the nightmare that was law school which zapped any desire to read I had. Couple that with a job that has me reading a ton of technical publications on a daily basis, and my avid wine blog reading, and I just couldn’t do it.  I participated a couple times, and thought, since I already have this month’s book and had read it, that I’d participate in the final edition of WBC.

Dr. Debs chose A Vineyard in Tuscany by Ferenc Máté for the last WBC. I purchased this book in December 2007 from R.J. Julia’s in Madison, CT. I actually read it ages ago, though apparently I never wrote about it for some odd reason. I truly thought I had. Last winter/spring I went through a period where I actually was reading a book a week…on the plane to and from Atlanta where I was detailed for a work project and had to travel to and from every week or so.  It’s possible the post got lost in the transition from Blogger to WordPress…I had some issues when I moved.

A Vineyard in Tuscany is a fairly quick read. I polished it off on the round trip flight to Atlanta from National Airport…about a 1.5 hour flight each way.  Then again, according to Matt, I’m the only person he’s ever met who reads faster than he does (a skill that did serve me well in law school!).  Or perhaps the book went fast because I wanted to gobble up the story of the Máte family as they purchased a vineyard, planted it, got through their first harvest, and bottled the wine.

Not only did they purchase a vineyard site, but they purchased a ruin site…that they fully restored. My favorite bits were when Ferenc insisted on chasing down ancient beams to restore the ceilings to their former glory as well as an old front door. I loved the dedication to making the restoration truly authentic and not just substituting modern materials.

I was as drawn into the restoration of the ruins as I was into the planting of the vineyard. Of course, the stories were interwoven, but at times, it seemed as if the focus was mostly on the house.  I think I would have enjoyed a bit more info about the vineyards and how they chose to plant the grapes they did.  At the same time, I cheered when they harvested their first grapes after 3 years of getting the vineyard ready and restoring the ruin.  And, the descriptions of their Syrahs made me want to hunt one down just so I could try it!

Overall, I loved the idea of building something from scratch–making it totally yours and just the way you want it.  The fact that it was a vineyard of course made it more appealing to me, seeing as how I still harbor the seemingly impossible dream of someday owning my own vineyard!

Many thanks to Dr. Debs for her efforts with the WBC, and my sincerest apologies for not being a better participant.

WBW News! And the WBC NA!

I’ve been remiss in letting you know that Dr. Debs of Good Wine Under $20 has posted her round up of White Wine Varietals from WBW #46. You can check out all the details here, but the quick breakdown was that 43 bloggers participated and nearly everyone liked their wine. So get out there and try some Rhone whites for the summer!

Second, the next WBW has been announced! Our hosts this month are Erin and Michelle of Grape Juice and they have chose the theme “Brought to you by the letter “S.”” By that they want you to choose any wine in the world directly associated with the letter “S.” So choose a South African Sauvignon Blanc, or a Seghesio Sonoma Sangiovese, or whatever your heart desires so long as the appellation or the grape or the producer, or something else directly related to the wine starts with “S.” Find all the details here.

And finally, the current biggest event in the wine blog world is the Wine Bloggers Conference! Hosted by Open Wine Consortium and Zephyr Wine Adventures, this promises to be the event to meet and greet and learn with all your fellow wine bloggers. The event will occur in October in Sonoma County, lots of good wine will be poured and I for one am very excited to meet the folks that I’ve been interacting with for almost 2 years now! (Crossing my fingers, it looks about 90% odds that I will be there!)

WBW #46-White Rhone Varietals

That’s right folks, it’s that time of the month again, WBW! This month, our gracious host is the wonderful Dr. Debs of Good Wine Under $20. She has set us to the task of picking a wine made from any White Rhone Varietal from anywhere in the world. This left the field wide open for wine from almost anywhere since Rhone varietals are being planted in lots of different places, and it gave a choice of many different grape varieties, Grenache Blanc, Marsanne, Rousanne…

With the task in mind, I went straight to my basement, where many CA Viogniers live. If I had not been traveling for work all last week, I would have been a little more ambitious and tried to compare one of the CA examples to one from the actual Rhone, but alas, it was not to be. Instead, in keeping with the regular theme of Dr. Deb’s blog, I decided to shoot for a wine that under $20!

I chose the 2006 Hannah Nicole Viognier. I purchased this wine from WineQ, it cost me $15.99 (free shipping!), and clocked in at a hefty 15% alcohol by volume. I was a bit thrown off by this high of an alcohol level in a white wine, but in general I don’t have problem with high alcohol in wine so long as the wine remains balanced, as this one did.

On first sniff, I had to laugh. We had a Syrah that had been fermented on Viognier grape skins (complicated, huh?) the other night, and the Hannah Nicole smelled exactly like the Syrah. My nose was all confused having a white wine that smelled exactly like the red we had consumed the night before!

After my initial confusion passed, I found the wine to be very floral. It showed great strong aromas of honeysuckle, pears, and peaches, topped off with a creamy vanilla note. In the mouth the wine was crisp, which I didn’t really expect since it had been aged in new and old oak. The flavors I found were grapefruit, peach, pears, and some other citrus.

The wine was tingly and tart on the front of the palate, while the oak seemed to have given it a creamy feel mid-palate. Overall, I thought this wine was very refreshing, which is not a characteristic I usually associate with an oaked white wine, but I was pleasantly surprised. This was definitely a good value for the $15.99 price I paid for it.

Now, I know Dr. Debs was trying to get us to see the wonderful qualities of White Rhone Varietals for the summer, but I’m already a convert! One of my favorite pairings last years was a Roussanne with fresh crab legs. Though I will highly recommend that you follow her lead and toss a few White Rhone grapes into your drinking line up for the summer!

Many thanks to Dr. Debs for hosting this month, and as usual, I will let you know when the round-up is posted and what next month’s theme is!

Two Contests and a Reminder

I’ve been getting some email lately about contests that I think might interest my readers.

The first comes from the blog Wine for Newbies. Andre is hosting a quiz on his blog with several prizes, including a food and wine pairing kit, and some cool coasters. All you need to do is pop on over and answer his questions about wine and send him your response before June 8! Here’s the link to the quiz. Best of luck!

I also heard from Emily of Marx Foods yesterday. She contacted me because of my post about not having any salmon for a wine I was drinking! Her company is holding a summer salmon recipe contest and the prize is 15 pounds of wild caught salmon(shipped to you in 3 5lb shipments throughout the summer)! You can head on over to Marx Foods to submit your recipe by June 20.

And finally, a reminder. WBW #46 is next Wednesday! I failed to mention it earlier, but the good Dr. Debs over at Good Wine Under $20 is our host this month and she has chosen White Rhone Varietals as our theme. The twist is that the wine can come from anywhere in the world so long as it is made with a traditional Rhone white grape…so your Marsanne, Roussane, Viognier, etc. …..you can read all the details over at her WBW post. I’m excited for this one, as it’s the first WBW since I hosted where I can just head on down to my basement and pluck a bottle from my shelves!

WBC #1 Round up posted and WBC #2 Announced!

Our host for the first edition of the WBC was David of McDuff’s Food and Wine Trail. He chose the book Vino Italiano as a massive tome for our first rendition of the book club, and the turn out was fantastic! 25 people participated and wrote reviews of the book. You can head on over to his blog to read the round up from all of the participants.

Next, the announcement for WBC #2 is up! Our host for the second WBC is Tim of Winecast. Time has chosen a much less daunting task in the form of the book Noble Rot: A Bordeaux Wine Revolution by William Echikson. You can read all the details over here on Winecast, but the long and short of it is: read the book, write a review, and post it on your blog or send it to Tim at winecast@gmail.com by April 29 in time for our next book club meeting.

Now, Noble Rot is less than a third of the size of Vino Italiano, so no excuses about the length this time! Let’s keep the momentum from the first WBC going and get an even bigger turnout next month. Looking forward to reading everyone’s reviews in April! I’ve got a ton of work travel coming up, so this time I shouldn’t be struggling to finish. Many thanks to Dr. Debs for the great idea of a wine book club.

Perhaps Better Late Than Never: WBC #1

Our assignment for the first edition of the Wine Book Club (WBC) came from David of McDuff’s Food and Wine Trail. He tasked us with a book longer than any I have read in the last 5 years, unless you count Harry Potter and law school case books. Yes, this makes me less than intellectual, but honestly, I don’t have much of an inclination to read any more. I got tired of it to be truthful, and I still read so much for work, that the thought of picking up a long book when I get home just doesn’t appeal to me. I clearly read a bit, I’ve reviewed a few wine books here for you before, and will continue to do so as I get more from PR people and publishers (in fact, I’ve got one for you soon, I read half on the plane to Atlanta and intend to finish is Friday on the way home!). So I must say, I was actually quite glad when Dr. Debs proposed the idea of a wine book club. Like other wine geeks, wine books pile up on my shelves, and I really should get around to them!

With that in mind, I picked up this month’s book, Vino Italiano, by Joseph Bastianich and David Lynch, and got to reading. It’s 531 pages including all indexes and appendices. It took me the whole assignment time, but I did it.

First thoughts: The organization, especially with the appendices and indexes, makes this the ideal reference book on Italian Wine. You can find anything about Italian wine that you never thought you wanted to know instantaneously. Each chapter has a handy guide at the end giving the quick and dirty on the region, the principle grapes, key vintages, etc. I found the guides to be one of the most useful parts of the book, if you aren’t inclined to read it in its entirety, and trust me, I’d be the last to blame you for that one, you can easily flip to the guides and get a fast overview of the region, which can assist you in deciding if the chapter is one that will intrigue you or not. I see myself turning to this book both as a reference in the future, and for more knowledge on particular grapes and regions.

Second thoughts: The stories at the beginning of each chapter kept me going to the next chapter, even when I felt a little bogged down in the weeds. They were fun and charming tales of a slice of life in each region, and I salivated over some of the food described, while feeling a bit repulsed by other “delicacies.”

Third thoughts: The book contains so much information, that it’s hard to digest all at once, and I think perhaps the pick and choose as you are interested in a region approach might be the best in tackling this book.

Fourth thoughts: Italian wines and varietals were on my list this year of things to learn about. So really this was a perfect book for me to read. I dove in, and was again astounded by the sheer volume of types of Italian wine. But alas, I came away a touch disappointed as I learned that many of the very small production local grapes are just not available here in the US. I guess that cements my desire to make our next BIG vacation to Italy…it’ll satisfy the classical historian in Matt and my desire to drink lots of Italian wines and gorge myself on priscutto drizzled with fresh pressed olive oil….::drifts into a daydream of cheese, cured meats, and wine::

And ultimately, that’s where Vino Italiano left me: hungry (thirsty?) to try more Italian wines (and cured meats), and to continue referencing the book to learn more as I am drinking. Which, I think might be my next adventure. Pick a chapter, find a wine from that region, and drink the wine while learning about the region.

Thanks to David for hosting this month and to Dr.Debs for the WBC idea!

Drinking the Four Vines Maverick Zinfandel

I picked this bottle up from Goudas and Vines in Montrose, California. I recognized it from the series that Dr. Debs over at Good Wine Under $20 has going on, her profiles of wineries from the Family Winemakers tasting she attended.

The bottle is 2004 Four Vines Maverick Zinfandel from Amador County. It cost $19.95, had a real cork closure and was 14.9% alcohol by volume.

On the nose I found cloves, black pepper, dark fruit and blackberries. In the mouth there were currants, black berries, black cherries and a black pepper kick. Overall, I would describe the flavor as juicy blackberries with a black pepper bite.

I served this with steaks topped with currant jelly zinfandel sauce over a bed of 3 cheese risotto. I offered to cook one of the evening we were out visiting the in-laws and Matt seems to think the steak/risotto dish is my specialty, if I don’t have a pizza stone to make pizza with. It was a nice match to the steaks, which I had rubbed with black pepper and salt before grilling them, so that probably contributed to bringing out the pepper note in the wine. As always, I like making the sauce out of whatever wine we will be drinking as the flavors complement each other nicely. Definitely a steak or bbq wine in my opinion!

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