Tag Archives: Portuguese

Esporão Quinto Dos Murças Minas 2015

18 Jul

Herdade do Esporão Quinto Dos Murças Minas 2015, DOC Douro, Portugal. ABV 14%, MSRP $25/bottle.

 

Color is a vibrant, warm purple center with violet edging. The nose proffers black plum, ripe cherry, and spice box with notes of topsoil, charred oak, and calceous clay. On the palate: red and black cassis, plum, then notes of violet, vanilla, leather, sand and slate.  Strong heat lingers across the top palate with grippy tannins across the side and rear. A nice aftertaste on the finish; lingering smoke and black cherry on the top of the mouth. 

 

Drinkable now as a great food-pairing wine (hello, Petiscos?)  but when this finishes harmonizing the elements, look out. This is going to drink gorgeously by itself, given the right amount of time in a cool, dark cave.

I paired this with a light mediterranean, late night dinner. The eggplant tahini I tried first didn’t make the wine shine at first. But, when I moved on to fresh vegetables and spicy turkish salad dip, this wine sang like a soprano center stage! Give her grilled meats or some hot summer spice, and wow- your tongue will be working overtime in pleasure. Likewise, I could easily see Spanish, Mexican, Indian or Thai being a killer pairing with this wine- I would love to try lamb vindaloo with this Douro blend, or find it in a Brazilian steakhouse!

What’s your favorite pairing with Douro reds? Grilled octopus? Fowl sausage? Porto Preto? Francesinha?  Soap de Cação?

à votre santé!

 

Murrieta’s Well Estate Vineyards Part 2: The Spur and Zarzuela

8 Jul
(If you missed part 1, you can find it here.)

The Spur 2014 by Murrieta’s Well, Livermore, CA. 13.5%, ABV, MSRP $30/bottle.

 

Color is a dark purple that is barely translucent, with violet edging. The nose is rich and robust with ripe blue fruit, spices, oak, scorched earth and a touch of lingering compost. Boysenberry, black plum, sour cherries, and damp green herbs cross and hold the front and side palates, while heat from the alcohol crosses the top and lands at the back along with notes of cedar, clay, forest floor, and saddle leather. The mouthfeel is powerful, youthful, and explosive, while the finish is long and slow in comparison: the lingering smoke from the cannon’s barrage, with final notes of dark blackberries and cassis suddenly in the very front of my mouth, making my tongue search with inquisitiveness and amusement, wondering “When did those arrive?”

An unusual, fun, unique red blend. Curious and expressive, this is an oral Cirque Du Soleil, a strange circus of unexpected feats and new delights in the mouth. Winemaker Robbie Meyer must have a great sense of humor. When he develops this wine, he takes gorgeous barrels of varietals he could sell so simply and easily, and makes a wild, distinctive blend that just screams to be paired with food for maximum enjoyment- and it delivers! The Spur was tremendous with asian spices from a stir-fry, and stood up to serious heat and kick from a powerful mexican salad and ghost pepper tamales! With red meat, you might want to call friends over first, or sit alone and cry, this wine pairing is so good. This type of winemaking reminds me of only one other person: David Phinney of Orin Swift, whose zin-heavy blends took the world by storm years ago. But Meyer makes a more robust and sometimes elegant bouquet of darker flavors, huge strokes of color crossing the palate and making your mouth wonder “just what is going on here?” What, indeed.

Brilliance.

 

Don’t take my word for it. Get yourself a bottle or six, before you see this in every Del Frisco’s and Ruth’s Chris steak house by the glass to encourage bottle sales. Because my friends, that day will be here soon.

You’re going to ask, and I almost forgot because the wine is that damn good:
The Spur’s blend is made up of 45% cabernet, 22% petite syrah, 14% petite verdot, 10% merlot, and 9% cabernet franc=holy smokes just give me more of The Spur. 207 barrels were made, which makes a little over 5,000 cases, all of it certified sustainable, like everything else from Murrieta’s Well. So you should be able to find just enough to tide you over until next year, if you order soon.

 

 

No, that isn’t all. It could be, I almost thought it would be. 

But I have one more bottle to tell you about. 

 

2015 Zarzuela by Murrieta’s Well, Livermore, CA. 14.1%, ABV, MSRP $60/bottle.

Color is dark maroon with purple edging, opaque at the center, converging to translucent near the sides. The elegant nose offers dark black and blue fruit, cedar and a hint of evergreen, with sandy clay. On the palate: blueberry, blackberry and black plum resolve into a luscious compote on the front of the tongue while the rest of the mouth sense a dark berry tart. The medium-long finish has secondary notes of cinnamon, mocha, and allspice, rounding up with more sandy loam, another bite of blueberry on the back palate, and a final hit of raspberry on the top palate, with my tongue aching for more. My glass is empty of the one-ounce tasting pour… when did that happen? My mind knows this wine is perfect for food pairing, but my mouth doesn’t want anything to do with that, just give me more of this intoxicating elixir.

My first pairing with asian cuisine had too many big flavors in the dish to match well yesterday, but today both medium and heavy cheeses are perfect companions, even the delicate comte is a great foil, so I move to dolce gorgonzola and have another great bite to match Zarzuela. So charcoal grilled meats and vegetables are going to be perfect with this wine, as is chocolate, which makes the mocha and red fruit notes incredibly prominent. This wine feels so elegant in the mouth, it’s definitely old-world-European, but the grapes feel more Spanish, so I look: 40% Tempranillo, 40% Touriga, 20% Souza. It’s classic Iberian Peninsula. So no wonder it’s named “Zarzuela”, the Spanish word for operetta, and was first created by one of the founders and the first winemaker at Murrieta’s Well, Sergio Traverse. My thanks, señor!  Made at Murrieta’s Well since 2003, Robbie Meyer is staying true to the original intent with gorgeous vintages since then, a club favorite, it seems.

 

This is the wine I’d choose to invite my buddy Robert over so we could catch up, cook a large steak and vegetables over the grill, share stories of work and family, and appreciate the beauty of life with food & drink while watching the sunset and know that life is wonderful.

 

 

Only 24 barrels were produced of the 2015 Zarzuela, which is aged 16 months in French oak. It exudes elegance, class, and old-world, European style. If you hadn’t found a reason to join their wine club before this, the Zarzuela is reason enough.

Just remember…when you celebrate these wines with your friends & family… save a sip for me. You know I’d pour you a glass. But I can’t because this bottle is already dry. Now how did THAT happen?

I’ll leave you with some Placido, singing Zarzuela. It is, after all, a perfect pairing with the wine. Cheers!

à votre santé!

 

Locations Wines P4: Portugal!

28 Feb

P4 Locations Wines by David Phinney, Portuguese Red Wine Blend. 15%ABV, MSRP$18/bottle.

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Color is deep ruby with warm purple edges. The nose is a touch hot, hiding rich dark fruit beneath the alcohol that requires a moment to dissipate. On the palate, black plum, black and blue berries, green vegetation, and a hint of bitter herb on the back palate. Strong tannins and acidity deliver a solid finish with notes of dark chocolate, vanilla, gravel, and chalk.

The flavors are dark and deeply concentrated, evoking images of ancient, gnarled rootstock, and powerful sun beating down on small fruit hanging from low vines carefully strung across a steep hillside.

A beautiful palate cleanser, my initial thought was that this wine begs for petiscos, fresh fish and the warm climate of home, being a blend of touriga franca, touring nacional, and trincadeira grapes. But it is still winter in NYC, so I opened this bottle and enjoyed a glass with grilled chicken and broccoli, and was more that satisfied. Two days later with my in-laws, it paired beautifully with winter meat loaf, potatoes and salad. And once again, my brother-in-law and I just enjoyed this wine so evenly! Not to be outdone, on day four it matched a vegetarian dinner of kale salad and baked onion pie. While compiling my notes, the final sips paired beautifully again with baked gorgonzola bites and then perfectly with a single piece of dark chocolate.

 

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I keep wondering if I will open a bottle of Locations and not be impressed. Dave Phinney seems to be the Derek Jeter of wine: always on top of his game, rock solid in his delivery, and seemingly never out of surprises.

More Locations Wines to come. Stay tuned!

 

à votre santé!

 

Four Vinho Verdes Not To Miss!

7 Dec

I love Vinho Verde, so I jumped at a recent chance to taste four wines that were new to me.

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If you aren’t already a fan of this northwestern Portuguese wine, you should be. Vinho Verde is light & refreshing with citrus and nice acidity, sometimes with a hint of fizziness due to malolactic fermentation. Like Riesling, you can drink it as an aperitif, with just one course or through an entire meal. It leaves the palate refreshed and usually does so with a lower alcohol content.  It’s no big bold red wine, but it’s never meant to be. Vinho Verde stands firmly on its own, a coastal wine for coastal food, and my friends and neighbors have become accustomed to seeing it served at every wine gathering I host, alongside other wines that may change from season to season or moment to moment. Here are my tasting notes:

Tapada do Marquês 2013;  10% ABV, List $13. A blend of Loureiro, Alharinho and Trajadura grapes, a floral and fruity nose is matched on the palate with lime, passion fruit, and apricot with tart acidity.  A dry, lemony finish makes this wine ideal for pairing with seafood; I’d love to try it with my favorite grilled flounder recipe.

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Quinto de Curvos Avesso 2013, 13% ABV, List $13/bottle. Delicate floral notes expand across the palate and evolve into a creamy, warming mixture of tropical fruit with hints from apple, pear, & white peach stone fruit. A hint of residual sugar, a note of granite and a funky back palate will allow this vinho verde a plethora of food pairing options.

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Quinta de Santa Maria Arinto 2013. 12.5% ABV, List $15/bottle. 100% Arinto grapes make this delicate and crisp wine a joy to drink with a blossom and citrus nose, powerful lemon-lime initial palate, nice minerality, with a long finish. Leaving  a tart, crisp aftertaste on the tongue, this wine had me asking for more. A delightful single varietal, I’d love to serve this with a sunny brunch outdoors.

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Quinta do Tamariz Loureiro Escolhua 2013. %11ABV, List $15/bottle. Fruit forward with lots of pineapple and white peach, moves from refreshing to mature to majestic in the mouth with a crisp finish. Made from 100% loureiro grapes by winemaker Mara Francisca. This wine could pair beautifully with  fish or chicken recipe made with herbs, cream, or vegetables.

Tamariz

 

Each of these four showed different nuances and strengths and could easily be a part of your wine repertoire. With low street prices they offer a lot of bang for the proverbial buck, so please advise if you find a great bargain on these in your neighborhood!

à votre santé!

 

In Vino Veritas 2014. Vinho Verde!

28 May

I attended another “In Vino Veritas” group in NYC in which everyone brings a bottle (not the same one, hopefully) of a grape varietal or style of wine. I suggested several possibilities for summer wine options to group’s host,  Jimmy. A few days later I got an invitation via email, and the wine of choice was Portugal’s Vinho Verde.

I’ve been to Portuguese wine tastings before. One at a high-end wine store in Manhattan where I had found the vinho verde choices just not quite to my personal liking at that moment. I hoped to fare better at this one, and knew at least I’d bring one that I enjoyed.

The day of the tasting came and we found ourselves around a table with five bottles of vinho verde, from five different manufacturers, several of which cost under $10. They were quite different in style: some were lighter in color, body, and depth while others had some savory notes and a more yellow hue instead of the pale green I’ve come to associate with them. Not all the wines were sparkling/carbonated, and interestingly enough as a group we all seemed to choose different bottles as our favorite of the set. The tasting process became a great overview of a variance of style and flavors.

My apologies for the lack of specific individual reviews, as I was determined to actually enjoy this tasting and not make it “work”, so I left my notes for the next tasting, and am sharing only the overview today.

Casal Garcia

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Quinta de Azevedo

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Gazela Branco

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Muralhas de Mancao

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Most importantly at this tasting, everyone found a wine (or three) they enjoyed. For most of the group, it was their first time tasting this delicious and refreshing treat just in time for summer. For all of us, it was a great time with friends, trying something new and exciting, learning and enjoying, and having a wonderful summer evening.

vinho-verde-portugalHave a favorite Vinho Verde or a great story to share? Tell us about it!

à votre santé!

The Summer Breeze in Wine: Vinho Verde!

15 Jun

One of my favorite wines that is still WAY under the radar is Vinho Verde. One of Portugal’s lesser-known exports, this is a fresh, crisp wine (often with a little carbonation) that is delicious, perfect to cleanse the palate or enjoy at a cocktail party, and is super inexpensive. Best yet, unlike my other under-the-radar favorites, this one is easy to find in most stores.

Today’s vinho verde is Alianca , a delicate ‘vinho branco’ (or white wine) blend from Northeastern Portugal that is 10% alcohol by volume. With a classic greenish-yellow tinge in color, the citrus nose sits between lime and grapefruit. This one is gently fizzy, with good, crisp acidity on the mouth and a dry, balanced palate of lemongrass, citrus, granny smith apple and young anjou pear.

 

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I pulled this out of my fridge at the last minute for a neighbor’s backyard get-together. My hope of using this to introduce several friends to vinho verde went over well, and it was quite popular, and perfect like a summer breeze.

Here’s the real kicker- I found it locally (Mayfair Wines & Liquor for those in my area of NYC) and it was $7/bottle. Seven bucks. Against my favorite $30+ Sauvignon Blanc, this is the one that everyone wanted more of at the cocktail party.

I suggest you find a local wine store, ask for a vinho verde, and try it with unsuspecting friends! See what they think- you might surprise them, with something new they’ll thank you for!

à votre santé!

 

 

 

Cepa Pura Touriga Nacional 2011 / Astor Wines’ Top Ten

16 Jan

Cepa Pura Touriga Nacional, Quinto do Montalto, 2011, $10/bottle at Astor Wines & Spirits

With a nose of cassis and cherry and a nice purple color, this Portuguese red has plum as the dominant fruit when tasted. Secondary notes of leather and cedar accompany the nice balance of the Touriga Franca grapes; and it has an even, medium dry finish I found delightful. I had two bottles of this wine and enjoyed it over two weeks with steak, salmon, chicken, even pizza -and found this a nice vin du table I’d serve with just about anything.  I was surprised that when I googled this wine, I only found it at Astor Wine- I’d expect others to jump on this bargain immediately!  I’m considering both getting a case, or a mixed case of this and the white from Cepa Pura (see my link below).

 

Here is a link to the winery Quinto do Montalto for your enjoyment! If you click an English link that does not work, try it in French or Spanish!

Cepa Pura red

 

In the meantime, I happily suggest Astor’s Top Ten Under $10. Both of the wines from Quinto Do Montalto were from this set which is a great introduction to great bargains from around the world. (Here’s the link to the Fernao Pires I reviewed, and another for the McManis Family Syrah!) I’ve been very happy with the selections I’ve purchased from Astor Wine & Spirits and think this inexpensive case of wine is a great way to get to know new wines- you can even see what’s in the group in advance. If you decide to try one, let me know what you think! I bought a case in November (it changes every month!) and it is accompanied by a descriptive sheet which I enjoyed reading for pairing suggestions. I really enjoy this wine store and have found several wonderful, rare wines that are available here.

I think Astor’s Top Ten Under $10 is the perfect complement to Sherry Lehman’s Unsung Heroes of Bordeaux, which is another one of my favorite ways to taste new, small, or unknown Chateaux. These wines change twice yearly, and both of these sets make excellent gifts to your oenophile friends!

 

à votre santé!

 

Sonoma’s Forest Glen Chardonnay and Portugal’s Cepa Pura Fernao Pires

19 Dec

Forest Glen: 2009 Chardonnay, Sonoma, CA. $7.50 / Wine Room of Forest Hills.

Pale yellow-green in color. Lemon and green apple aromas with a touch of gentle wood from barrel fermentation. In the mouth, the pear, fig and apple flavors match with good acidity, showing balance. What felt tight in the mouth left a creamier, lasting finish that was pleasant and would go easily with appetizers, white meats or a cream sauce. Nice for the price. I was told it is entirely organic/biodynamic by the store proprietor, but have not found any data to support that on the web.

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Cepa Glass

Cepa Pura: 2011 Fernao Pires, Quinta do Montalto, Lisboa, Portugal. $8 / Astor Wine, NYC

Light straw color. Citrus nose with a hint of sand and slate. Quince, pear and creamed honey are forward in this fresh, simple but unpretentious and well-made wine sporting a nice, dry finish. A solid vin du table that would easily pair with salads, shellfish,  calamari,  chicken, or by itself. The acidity marries the wine with the food on the palate, cuts through the protein and makes you slow down the process to enjoy the pairing more. I don’t see many Fernao Pires wines on the shelves in the USA but this is a tasty Portuguese white that could easily be a staple in households if it gained popularity in the USA, comparable to white wines costing twice as much.

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à votre santé!

Symington Estate Altano Douro 2007

30 Jun

How often do you find a $10 red blend with clout? If you read my wine posts, you know that the best bargains found today in red wine are Portuguese wines from Douro, when the Argentinian Malbecs and Chilean vineyards full of French Cab Suv grapes have been gaining  popularity and as a result, their prices are climbing. The Douro area, famous for port, has become a mecca for phenomenal reds and vino verdes at $10 or under – and when I can find them for $10 in pricey Manhattan wineries, local stores with less overhead may sell them for as little as $7-8/bottle. BARGAIN TIME!

Today’s selection is the Symington Family Estate Altano 2007, made of Tinto Roriz (aka Tempranillo grape) and Touriga Franca grapes. (Please note: The Touriga Franca, aka Touriga Francesa grape is a port wine grape commonly found in Portugal.) This is a lovely blended wine whose nose demonstrates ripe red fruit, tasting of red plum and cherry. A hint of vanilla, oak and earth after the tangy, medium finish, this is a fun wine- its medium body will complement many dishes well. If you haven’t looked into wines from Douro yet- this may be the time, and the wine, to try. It’s a classic example of a great value wine with flexibility.

If you’re still unsure about the concept of Portuguese wines, you can rest easily knowing that these wines have been popular for a long time locally- and only recently have been become popular for export, much like the New Zealand, Chilean and Argentnian wines we find commonplace these days. But  check out their website about their viniculture, sustainable growth structure, and organic wines.

http://www.altano.pt/

à votre santé!

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