NY Ice Wine!

We headed up to NYC this weekend to visit with my inlaws (thankfully we took the BoltBus were I could catch up on email and such uninterrupted for 4 hours!!).  While there, we stayed with some family friends who left us a bottle of Finger Lakes Ice Wine on the counter! I don’t get many chances to try wines from NY, so I’m always happy to taste one…I imagine it’s a bit like VA wines, you don’t see them too often outside the state of origin.  After a long day spent watching the Yankees lose (sob) though enjoying the fact that Matt’s birthday wishes got posted on the big screen at the game, we retired to our friends’ apartment and cracked open the 2005 Standing Stone Vineyards Vidal Ice Wine. It has a plastic cork closure, clocks in at 11% alcohol by volume, comes in a 375mL bottle, and looks to retail for somewhere between $20 and $25 for the bottle. I’m unsure if this is made in the ice wine style or if the grapes are actually frozen on the vine.

The color on the wine almost looked like brandy to me…I was surprised at how dark this wine was.  On the nose I found honey, flowers, apricot, sweet apples, candied pear, and a general sense of candied fruit. In the mouth I got flavors of honey, sweet pear, yellow apples, apricot, and candied pineapple.  While the wine was definitely sweet, it had great acidity.  I would love to try this with a selection of blue cheeses…it could take the place of the honey I usually drizzle on blue cheese!  Oh, and I can picture pouring this over some of the homemade French vanilla ice cream that I like to make….yum!

Farrah Olivia+ The Next Iron Chef

We first visited Farrah Olivia in Old Town Alexandria with my dad. We didn’t know anything about the place, but it was late, we were hungry, and it looked open. So we walked in around 9 at night and were seated immediately. I can say that such an occurrence is no longer a possibility since after we had been there, the owner and chef, Chef Morou, appeared on the Food Network show: The Next Iron Chef. It has been impossible to get reservations there ever since it aired, though I must admit, we were strangely excited when we saw that he was a contestant because we could actually say we had been to his restaurant. Though ultimately he did not win, his restaurant is still top notch in our book!

We started the evening with one of the cheese course, this time the Vermont Cheese selection which came with bread crisps, several blue cheeses, honey, and popcorn. Our first wine for the night was a 2006 Stellenbosch Sauvignon Blanc from South Africa that had a screw cap, clocked in at 13.5% alcohol by volume, and was on the wine list for $30. It was light and crisp with lemons, green apples, and apricot. The cheese course really enhanced the tart lemon in the Sauvignon Blanc. I was impressed the wine list had a bottle on it for $30.

Next we were served the amuse bouche for the evening which was a carrot flan with a fig balsamic vinegar reduction. Now, I’m not a carrot person, not am I a balsamic vinegar person, but this was excellent! Also served before our meal was a selection of breads accompanied by a quartet of spreads: an olive tapendade, honey butter, sundried tomato, and bok choy. The bread was excellent and the honey butter was fabulous.

For my entree I chose the domestic pork loin with orange sauce, my dad had the grilled halibut, and Matt had the duck breast. Everyone was thrilled with their entrees, and highly recommended them. The presentation was excellent, and the pork loin was perfectly cooked. I loved the orange sauce.

Finally, we finished with another cheese course for dessert, the semi soft cow’s milk cheese, Thomasville Tomme from Georgia. My dad, being a Port man, chose a Tawny Port from the dessert wine menu, while both Matt and I went with Ice Wein. We chose the 2003 Meinklang Soleil Pinot Blanc from Austria. It was priced at $7 a glass (cordial size). The wine smelled of candied honey and apricots, will in the mouth it tasted like honeyed nectar. It was viscous in the glass, and sweet, but still balanced.

I would highly recommend Farrah Olivia, but be prepared to drop $25+ per entree for dinner. Though I will say, the wine list was really quite reasonable. This is definitely a restaurant I would (and have tried!) to return to.

A Little Mouthful

That’s about all you need of Ice Wine! While we were visiting the folks in CT, my dad wanted to try ice wine, which he had seen me drink at a restaurant a while back. So we went to MV Wine and Spirit one night and bought a bottle. Now, this is an actual ice wine, frozen on the vines, but it’s not from Germany, but the Niagara Peninsula.

The bottle was a Peller Estates Limited Edition Founders Series 2003 Vidal Ice Wine. It clocked in at 11.5% alcohol by volume, had a real cork closure, and cost $44.95.

On the nose of the wine I found honey, apricots, and golden raisins. These flavors all carried through to the mouth, into a gorgeous smooth concoction that went down very easily. The wine was sweet, as ice wines tend to be, but it had great structure with the acidic backbone.

This wine was the hit of the evening, and given the 6 bottles were consumed that night, that should say something. It met with universal approval and everyone asking for seconds! Too bad the ice wine bottles are so small!

Tasting with Ken of Ala Wine

As I’ve mentioned at least a few times now, Matt and I did some excellent wine tasting with Ken of Ala Wine and his wife while we were in the Sonoma area (which I probably should have been more clear about as I think many people, including Ken, thought we were actually in Sonoma, rather we were staying just outside of Healdsburg). While visiting the in-laws I received an email from Ken inquiring about our schedule and asking if we would like to do some tasting with him and his wife Cori (sorry if I didn’t get the spelling on that right!). I quickly said we would be delighted and thus we headed to their home on Thursday. Sadly, I underestimated the traffic and we were a touch late, but we eventually made it! You can head on over to Ken’s blog to read full details of all the wines we tasted, I’ll just give you some brief tasting notes here.

But first, Ken and Cori are wonderful people and we had the best time with them (and their really active cat, seriously, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a cat move that fast!). Their home is lovely and it was so incredibly kind of them to have us over. This was Matt’s first experience in actually talking about wines and writing notes while he tasted, he usually leaves it up to me and will occassionally offer an opinion if I prod him enough, but he enjoyed it and is already talking about getting tasting sheets and hosting a tasting at our house. After we finished tasting Cori suggested we all go grab dinner and we went to a great Italian place where I just had to get fettucini alfredo as we had been talking about how a cream based sauce would be great with one of the wines we tasted and the craving stuck in my head. We got to taste some great wines and meet some interesting new people, all in all a fantastic evening in my book! Thanks again for having us!

Onto the notes:

First up, a 2005 Unionville Vineyards Chardonnay, from New Jersey. Now, I know you must be thinking, Huh? New Jersey? But actually this isn’t the first wine I’ve had from New Jersey as I had a friend in law school in that area and she would frequently bring back wines from various vineyards. The Unionville Chardonnay could best be described as having a damp nose with a slight hint of oak and undertones of lemons. In the mouth there were lemons and pears. It had a short finish, but was smooth with a good mouthfeel. The wine was slightly tart and left a clean feeling in the mouth. We discussed having this wine with an herbed chicken or a pasta with cream sauce and decided it would be really food friendly. It doesn’t appear on their website, but the last 2 vintages were $19.99 a bottle.

Second on the list was a 2004 Cliff Creek Syrah. The nose of this wine was full of dark fruits, specifically black cherries and blueberries with a touch of maple syrup, as odd as that sounds, but it worked and was a very pleasing nose. The wine clocks in at 14.6% alcohol by volume and I can see from their website runs for $35. In the mouth there were black cherries and the wine was fairly smooth but appeared to have tannins that would allow it to age, and hopefully bring out more of the flavors we found in the nose.

Next up was a 2002 Meola Vineyards Cabernet Sauvignon. On those nose of this one we found oak, black currants and peppers. In the mouth there was a distinct taste of dried fruits, mostly currants and raisins. We all liked this wine, but thought that it would be even better if we decanted, so Ken did so and we went back to it later. After an hour or so decanting, this wine was much better. It had opened up and the powerful impression of dried fruit was gone, as were the peppers, showing a sweet nose with strawberries and more strawberries in the mouth. I would venture to guess you should age this one and it will be an excellent wine in a few years. Looks like the winery is sold out, but it goes for $50 and has 14% alcohol by volume.

Fourth bottle of the evening found us drinking a 2004 EOS Reserve Petite Sirah from Paso Robles. I love Petite Sirah, so I may be biased, but this was my favorite wine of the evening. The wine does not appear on the website, but the 2003 vintage does, which was also a big award winner and goes for $25 a bottle. If that’s the price of the 2004, I say run and get some. On the nose was an enticing aroma of raspberries, plums and pipe tobacco. In the mouth, gobs of raspberries, strawberry jam and a bit of blackberry, plus a note of the tobacco from the nose. The finish was long and very pleasant, overall this was just a lovely wine.

Finally we tried what would be my first ice wine and my first Fingerlakes wine, a 2005 Casa Larga Fiori Delle Stelle Vidal Ice Wine. It appears to cost $25/375 ml and was 11.5% alcohol by volume with 17% residual sugar. I can’t find a website for the winery. On the nose there was peach, honey, apricots, with honey, mandarin oranges (yes, like the ones in the can), pear and green apple to be found in the mouth. The wine was tart, not cloying or palate coating at all. It was well balanced with excellent structure. It really was a dessert in and of itself. I may now be spoiled to all other dessert wines but ice wine.

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