Archive for October, 2011

Walk-around Wine Tasting

Monday, October 31st, 2011

This past Tuesday was a special evening and off of the beaten path from our usual sit-down wine classes here at SF Wine Center.  Instead, the students arrived to a glass of champagne as we set up three different tasting stations; one of French wines, one of Old World wines, and the last of New World wines.  But before we had the class split into three small tasting groups former Wine Director of Restaurant Gary Danko and Cyrus and current GM of Meteor Vineyard in Napa, Jason Alexander, sat the class down at the table and conducted two blind tastings.  Using a Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough and a 1996 Barolo, Jason led the class through both tastings and informed them on the techniques used to properly taste and evaluate wine.  Next, we divided the class into groups and sent them on their way to taste.

The first station, led by Jason, allowed the students to taste four French wines; one being a Chablis, another from the Echezeaux commune of Burgundy, another from Chateauneuf-du-Pape, and lastly one from the left bank of Bordeaux.  These wines being an excellent example of four of the truly grand regions of France provided an ample opportunity for the students to grasp what makes each of those regions as distinct as they are.

The second station, led by yours truly, featured wines from four distinguished European countries.  The first of the wines was a Gruner Veltliner of Austria, second was a Kabinett Riesling from Germany, third was a red blend from Duoro, and last was a tempranillo from Rioja.  The first two wines offered the students a fine example of the signature whites of both countries, while the two reds were distinguishable to their regions, yet had special characteristics that set them apart of the rest.

The third station was led by Certified Sommelier and freelance wine writer for Sommelier Journal, Joanna Breslin.  Joanna led the students through four New World wines; one representing Chenin Blanc from South Africa, another representing an Oregon Pinot Noir, another exemplifying a shiraz from Barossa, and last but not least, a Malbec from Mendoza.  Each one being the most notable wine from that particular region, the students were exposed to the significant varietals that are responsible for putting these New World wine countries on the map.

My Top Pick for the Night?

Bodegas Muga Seleccion Especial Reserva 2005 – Rioja, Spain

This tempranillo from Rioja was not only pleasing to the palate as they usually are, but also a powerful experience of red fruit, earthiness, spice, and some nuttiness from the oak.  The tannins were still strong but have begun to smooth out the texture of the wine.  This wine was absolutely splendid to drink now, but with its heavy fruit, tannin, and upholding acidity, I think that this wine would drink well for the next few years.

Thanks to Jason, Joanna, and of course Brian for putting together an exciting, fun, and memorable tasting class!

-Julie Albin

Wine List:

  1. Pierre Peters Brut Cuvee Res Grand Cru – Champagne, FR
  2. Villa Maria Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2010 – New Zealand
  3. Rocche Dei Manzoni Barolo 1996 – Piedmont, IT
  4. Jean-Marc Brocard Chablis 2009 – Chablis, FR
  5. Joseph Drouhin GrandsEchezeaux 2004 – Burgundy, FR
  6. Domaine Grand Veneur Chateauneuf-du-Pape 2004 – Southern Rhone, FR
  7. Christian Moueix St. Estephe 2006 – Bordeaux, FR
  8. Domaine Wachau Terrassen Federspiel Gruner Veltliner 2008 – Austria
  9. August Kesseler Riesling Kabinett 2004 – Rheingau, Germany
  10. Casa Ferreirinha Vinha Grande Douro 2002 – Douro, Portugal
  11. Bodegas Muga Seleccion Especial Reserva 2005 – Rioja, Spain
  12. Sadie Family Sequillo Swartland Chenin Blanc blend 2007 – S. Africa
  13. Lazy River Yamhill-Carlton Willamette Valley Pinot Noir 2005 – Oregon
  14. Pensfold RWT Barossa Valley Shiraz 2006 – Australia
  15. Luigi Bosca Estate Reserva Malbec 2008 – Mendoza, ARG

Argentina vs. Chile

Monday, October 24th, 2011

On a rousing Tuesday evening, South America was in the air as freelance food and wine writer Mary Burnham channeled us into the exciting world of Argentine and Chilean wines.   As an author of the 2011 Food & Wine Magazine Guide to Wine, Mary has sizable experience in the amazing wines from both of these countries.

Mary started the class off by introducing the students to the major winemaking regions of Argentina and Chile; each region being successful for particular types of wine.  Mendoza is Argentina’s most famous region, renowned by its inky and tannic Malbec wines.  Further up north, Salta is a desert like region that is prominent for its production of Torrontes wines.  Over in Chile, Casablanca is a region that is very significant for its quality Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc wines.  Maipo Valley is another noteworthy region of Chile that is best known for producing well-rounded reds, particularly noted for its Cabernet Sauvignon.  Some of the most southern regions of both countries, Rio Negro of Argentina and Bío Bío of Chile, are recently receiving a lot more recognition for their exceptional Pinot Noir.

Blessed by unlimited sunshine and the Andes Mountains, both countries have truly ideal grape growing conditions.  The Andes not only act as a rain shield for Argentina, it also provides natural irrigation to both countries through its constant snowmelt.  The Humboldt Current from Antarctica and the Andes Mountains both provide cool breezes that help the grapes retain their acidity after spending all day soaking in the sun.  With all of these beneficial conditions, it is not surprising that Argentine and Chilean wines have created such a stir in the wine industry.

And next, we moved on to the wines.  We tasted some signature grapes from their associated regions, such as Malbec from Mendoza and Carmènere from Colchagua Valley.  We also compared the same varietals from both countries like Chardonnay, Cabernet Sauvignon, and other red blends.  After completing our voyage through all 15 tastings, the class was put to a vote to decide which country the majority of the favorites came from.  The winner by a mere point…Argentina!

My Top Pick for the Night?

Archaval Ferrer Malbec 2009 – Mendoza, Argentina

This absolutely stunning Malbec had rich notes of dark chocolate, boysenberries, and blackberries.  To match the opulence, the wine was toughened up by its characteristics of tobacco and cloves.  The most intriguing part of this wine was the aftertaste of dried grapefruit and Puerh tea that allows you to fully indulge in the savory tannins of this Malbec.

Thanks to Mary and Brian for a wonderful journey through South American wines!

-Julie Albin

Wine List:

  1. Cono Sur “Visiòn” Block Loma Roja Sauvignon Blanc 2009- Casablanca Valley, Chile
  2. Colomé Valle Calchaqui Torrontes 2010- Salta, Argentina
  3. Catena Alamos Chardonnay 2009 – Mendoza, Argentina
  4. Santa Ema Amplus Chardonnay 2008- Leyda Valley, Chile
  5. Luigi Bosca Estate Reserve Pinot Noir 2009 – Maipu, Mendoza, Argentina
  6. Casa Marin Lo Abarca Hills Vineyard Pinot Noir 2009 – San Antonio Valley, Chile
  7. Colonia Las Liebres Bonarda 2006 – Mendoza, Argentina
  8. Matetic Corralillo Syrah 2009 – San Antonio Valley, Chile
  9. Casa Silva Los Lingues Gran Reserva Carmènere 2006 – Colchagua Valley, Chile
  10. Le Dix de Los Vascos 2008 (85% cab, 8% carmènere, 7% syrah) – Colchagua Valley, Chile
  11. Clos de la Sieté 2008 (malbec, merlot, cab, syrah, petit verdot) – Mendoza, Argentina
  12. Valentin Bianchi Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 – Mendoza, Argentina
  13. Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 – Central Valley, Chile
  14. Altos Las Hormigas Reserva Malbec 2006 – Valle de Ucco, Mendoza, Argentina
  15. Archaval Ferrer Malbec 2009 – Mendoza, Argentina

Discovering the Wines of Austria and Germany

Saturday, October 15th, 2011

On another beautiful Tuesday evening in the city, we had the privilege of learning about and tasting the great wines of Austria and Germany.  Led by wine veteran Jason Alexander, we had a full class of females eager to gain more knowledge of, and of course taste, these fascinating wines.  It appears that the males thought they could sit this one out on account that these were mostly Rieslings, but boy did they sure miss out on some incredible wines.

Jason started off the class by briefly touching on the interesting history that Austria has within the wine industry.  For those who know about the issues that the country previously faced in the 80’s due to chemically altering their wines, Austria has sure come a long way since those days.  Nowadays, it is very common to find Austrian wines at even the most highly regarded restaurants and wine bars.

While on the topic of Austria, we dove into a Gruner Veltliner wine and continued onto Austrian Rieslings.  To add to the mix, we also tasted the Austrian red varietal known as Blaufränkisch from Burgenland.  Each of these wines expressed their unique levels of fruit, spices, and minerality.

Moving onto Germany, Jason enlightened the class on the German wine laws and how the wines are categorized by their level of ripeness.  He also described in detail the different regions and how their terroir undeniably affects the outcome of their wines.  All of which influences the steep pricing for some of the highly sought after quality German wines.

With that being said, we tasted through our line of four German Rieslings.  Starting off with a Trocken wine, we continued on to taste a Kabinett, Spatlese, and finally an Auslese classified wine.  Within the four wines, we were able to uncover the strong minerality variances between the prestigious regions of Rheingua, Pfalz, and Mosel.

My top pick for the night?

Zantho Blaufränkisch 2008- Burgenland, Austria

This extraordinarily interesting red starts the nose off with the aroma of burnt sugar, similar to the top layer of a warm crème brûlée.  Hints of strawberry, red cherry, and raspberry are nicely intertwined with the sugary characteristics.  The palate closely mimics the nose, while adding notes of forest floor, leather, a bit of herbs and even some green cardamom.  This well balanced wine is medium in body and acidity, making it easily drinkable while allowing the taster to have an exhilarating experience on the palate.

Thanks again to Jason and Brian for another fun and didactic wine class!

-Julie Albin

Wine List

  1. Salomon Undhof Von Stein Berglagen Gruner-Veltliner 2009 – Kremstal, Austria
  2. Domaine Wachau Terrassen Smaragd Riesling 2009 – Wachau, Austria
  3. Zantho Blaufrankisch 2008 – Burgenland, Austria
  4. Kracher Beerenauslese Cuvee 2008 – Burgenland, Austria
  5. Riesling Trocken, Robert Weil Kiedrich Turmberg 2009 – Rheingau, Germany
  6. Riesling Kabinett, Muller Catoir Gimmeldinger Mandelgarten 2004 – Pflaz, Germany
  7. Riesling  Spatlese, Dr. Loosen Graacher Himmelreich 2009 – Mosel-Saar-Ruwer, Germany
  8. Riesling  Auslese,  Josephshofer Reichsgraf Von Kesselstatt Fuder 6 2005 – Mosel-Saar- Ruwer, Germany