And Now For Something Slightly Different… St. Supery Sauvignon Blanc

The Back Story:

A while back, when I was just beginning to get into blogging and social media, I had the good fortune to have an afternoon off when Rick Bakas was hosting a Tweetup and wine tasting in Raleigh. For those of you who don’t know Rick, he’s a heavy hitter in the social media front, one who demonstrates his abilities through his actions rather than styling himself as a “guru” or “ninja” or “expert.” Most recently, he’s been directing social media for St. Supery, a winery located in Napa. You can follow his efforts on their Twitter account, Facebook, and blog.

Along with tasting several of St. Supery’s wines, including the incredible high-end Elu blend, I got to chat with the man himself for a good portion of the event. I and a few other Raleigh social media / wine tweeps (@lisasullivan from Media Two Interactive and @jeffreylcohen of NC Wine TV also joined me later at a 5:00 Fridays cocktail tweetup hosted by Dirt & Noise‘s @ilinaP) got to pick his brain on the industry, on marketing in social media, and a wealth of other topics. We also did a fair share of shooting the breeze, chatting about sports, food, and travel. Rick even offered his camera to Jeff for an impromptu NC Wine TV interview!

Basically, if St. Supery makes their way out to your city, I highly suggest you make the effort to get out and participate. Good wine and good people always makes for a successful tweetup.

As for the wine, though I dearly loved the Elu, I couldn’t afford to take it home with me that day. Because of my love for Sauvignon Blanc, however, that wasn’t much of an issue. St. Supery was tasting one that day as well, their 2008 vintage, and it was good.

The Results:

The appearance of the wine is a very pale yellow with a green tint. It appears to be fairly viscous.

The nose of the wine is very crisp and tropical, with notes of bright peach, grapefruit, and limes. The nose is slightly subdued for a Sauvignon Blanc but extremely appealing. At 13.3%, the alcohol makes only a slight, cool appearance.

The mouth feel of the wine is delightfully representative of the varietal. While the pH is slightly high for a Sauvignon Blanc (and for St Supery’s fare… their 2007 and 2009 are both at 3.28 pH compared to 3.39 for this one, the 2008), the dry, crisp texture is still present. The dryness is jaw-clenching, with a very active, tangy acidity and a slightly creamy texture.

The flavor of the wine is a bit more nuanced than the typical Sauvignon Blanc. The attack features peach and grapefruit, two congruous flavors that duel for supremacy on the palate. There’s a bit of grass and herbs, a nod to the classic style, but a delightfully long lemon-lime finish is accompanied by a soft perceived sweetness to shake up the palate a bit. I mentioned to someone that the Sauvignon Blanc had an unexpectedly fresh and nuanced flavor, and they remarked rather dismissively that they probably blended it to achieve this. Nope. This one is 100% Sauvignon Blanc.

For the Casual Drinker:

If you’ve had a Sauvignon Blanc, you basically know what to expect from this. It’s aggressive, like Sauvignon Blancs are wont to be, though this one adds some depth to the typical grassygrapefruitherb cluster of flavors this grape is known for. Sip it and enjoy, as the finish is where the wine really demonstrates its unique profile. Bone dry, by the way, at practically no residual sugar. Trust me, it doesn’t need it.

The Conclusion:

It’s certainly going to be a higher-end Sauvignon Blanc at $23.00, meaning you’ll be paying more for this bottle than two of most others, so this isn’t going to be an everyday sipper. If you really want a treat in this varietal, though, I highly recommend it. 8/10.

In Case You Missed It:

Wine: Estate Grown Sauvignon Blanc

Producer: St. Supery

Region: Napa Valley, California, United States

Varietal(s): 100% Sauvignon Blanc

Vintage: 2008

Residual Sugar: <.02%

Alcohol: 13.3%

pH: 3.39

Price: $23

Purchased at: Harris Teeter in Raleigh, available online direct from the winery here

Color me Converted: Norwegian Sour Ale

So, I have to say that, in my rather limited experience with sour ales, I’ve found the results to be especially satisfying. These beers are a very specific kind of brew that generally follows a set formula:

-fermented with an organism other than traditional yeast

-a blend of older, oak-aged beer with a younger specimen to combine aged sourness with young sweetness

-red or brown coloring from specialty malts

-strong fruity and floral aromas and flavors that overwhelm the beer’s natural hoppiness

Now, by and large, sour ales are considered a Belgian specialty. I for one had always invested in Belgian sours and Flemish reds. I have one more with intent to review in the fridge right now, actually.

The real story, though, is, on a whim, while I was placing an order at Bruisin Ales, I swapped out a duplicate Flemish red for a Norwegian sour as recommended by their proprietor. How was it? I’m not even going to tease. I loved it, and here’s a massive shot of it so you can see what I got. Haandbakk by Haand Bryggeriet. An Oud Bruin (Flanders brown) ale. Delicious vitals after the jump.

The Results:

The appearance of the beer is very appealing. It has a deep reddish brown color but a pure translucency. There’s very little cloudiness, which lends it a bright red luminosity in the light. The head retention is decent, but it’s not enough to let the beer truly develop in the glass. Once it’s there, the aromas will begin escaping, so you better enjoy it quickly.

The nose of the beer is almost purely sour fruit, with green apple and sour cherry. There’s almost no beer smell to it. The unusual preparation lends it an almost dusty, earthy aroma.

The mouth feel of the beer matches the flavor profile very well. It’s actively acidic and carbonated, accenting the sourness while adding structure to the perceived sweetness.

The flavor of the beer is very brisk and very sour. It has hints of herbs and grass, though it’s largely a fruit affair. Apple, cherry candy, almost like a Jolly Rancher. The hops come through on the finish with a hint of dark chocolate. The alcohol, at 8%, is nonexistent on the flavor.

For the Casual Drinker:

This doesn’t even remotely approach the typical flavor of a beer. The response I got from someone not expecting a sour ale said quite plainly that it smelled rotten. The fruits are pungent and, quite frankly, a trifle dusty, overwhelming a surprised palate. You have to go into this expecting anything but a typical beer.

The Conclusion:

Want a unique experience? This certainly qualifies. It’s a bit expensive at $11 for just over a pint, making it on par with those $40 to $50 bottles of juice you always bypass at the wine shop. Special occasion beer? Absolutely, but I recommend getting a bottle to try before you stock the fridge for New Years. 8/10

In Case You Missed It:

Beer: Haandbakk

Producer: Haand Bryggeriet

Region: Norway

Vintage: 2008

Alcohol: 8%

Price: $11 / 16.9 oz

This Weekend in Wine: Unfermented Juice and Drinking Jalapeno

This weekend involved two surprises, one really, really good and one really, really bad, as well as revisiting an old standby and a welcome new favorite. The old standby, of course, is the ranga.ranga Sauvignon Blanc, one of the standouts of the Marlborough region in New Zealand. The exceptional herbal, grassy flavors and subdued grapefruit continue to make it a unique experience and one of my most opened bottles. The new favorite? A Spanish blend from Jumilla, Altos de Luzon. 50% Monastrell, 25% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 25% Tempranillo. Beautiful flavor with a fantastic balance, and a refreshingly full red fruit profile with a subtle earthiness.

The two surprises? Let’s start with the bad one… the 2007 Chateau Saint Roch Chimères. I’ve seen reviews of this wine that describe it as hedonistic, that crusty old standby of wine review terms that means a hell of a lot less than people give it credit for. I can tell you that right out of the bottle, it was nigh undrinkable. It was so spicy it burned the tongue, and the nose was so laden with alcohol it made my eyes water.

After an hour in the decanter, the nose had cooled considerably, so I poured a glass and gave it a go. The texture was so unpleasantly acidic, so rough, that we decided to decant it further overnight, hoping the acids would settle down. The next day, the nose had softened to a fairly pleasant mix of hedonistic ripe dark fruits and herbs. I took a sip only to be overwhelmed by spice and acid again. Paired with a variety of cheeses, it ranged from gag-inducing to barely sip-able. 24 more hours in the decanter, it was too oxidized to be drinkable, and it STILL had a palpable spiciness that overwhelmed the flavor. This is definitely a wine that needs aging, and whoever told me it was a drink now affair was, I believe, off the mark.

I’ve seen a lot of reviews for this wine awarding it anywhere from 88 to 90, so I’m wondering precisely what I’m missing that they aren’t. Anybody had this wine before that can give me some insight? Anyone? So far as I could tell, it wasn’t flawed, though I would love to be proven wrong on that front.

As far as the good, the surprisingly good, we go to an unfermented Gewurztraminer.

Oh yes.

From Navarro Vineyards, their Verjus line is designed for two purposes: to provide a cooking juice with a fuller fruit flavor and to allow those who cannot or will not drink alcohol to experience the beautiful flavors of wine grapes.

First of all, this was the first time I’d ever tasted unfermented juice from a traditional wine-making grape. Let me tell you, it was a fascinating experience. The hints of everything that a Gewurztraminer could be were there, the perfume, crisp acidity, full texture, the bright fruits, all with an overwhelming sweetness that really gives you an idea of what the potential alcohol would be.

I was tasked that evening by my girlfriend, the owner of the bottle, to use it in a recipe. She had received a few bottles of various unfermented varietal wines as a gift and had declined to open them until then. The issue facing me, then, is how in the world do you use what is essentially very expensive white grape juice in a main dish?

I began by thinking about what you could possibly use it in. A sauce? A marinade? I sniffed and sipped the juice, then, with the flavors and aromas on my palate and nose, I shuffled through the spice cabinet, sniffing and tasting the contents of various containers to find anything that has a synergy with this pungent, sweet liquid. The juice had an affinity for poultry-friendly spices, and I decided to try a chicken marinade.

Of course, the juice was too sweet for chicken alone, so I tried to think of a good counter. Cheese, with its satisfyingly straightforward fatty and salty flavors, was a shoo-in. Adding a little spice to the cheese was a no-brainer, and combining it with spinach seemed to make a very substantial filling. My friends, a stuffed chicken bake was about to begin. Long story short, here’s the recipe:

1 cup unfermented white grape juice

4 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts

1/2 cup goat cheese

1/2 cup shredded spinach

flour for coating

generous dashes of dalmatian sage, thyme, rosemary, garlic, crushed pepper, and salt for the marinade.

generous dashes of spicy spices for the cheese filling

olive oil (optional)

I began by marinating the chicken in a bag with the grape juice and the above marinade spices for 45 minutes. During, you want to mix the goat cheese and spinach by hand. By hand is important, because it’ll warm and soften the cheese as it mixes with the moisture from the spinach, forming a moldable stuffing. Spice it up to taste, though I recommend starting with paprika and black pepper.

I pulled each piece of chicken out and rolled in a generous portion of flour, making sure each was basically covered. I then sliced each one end to end, as far in as I could get, then added a quarter of the stuffing to each, getting it as even as possible.

Here, if you want a softer, saucier chicken coating (which is what I went for), rub the tops of each piece of chicken with olive oil. If you want it to get crispy, leave it dry. Bake for 25 minutes at 400 degrees. We served it with seasoned boiled red-skin potatoes.

The smells that came out of the oven were heavenly… the marinade was immaculate. The spices and the goat cheese counteracted the subtle sweetness that the chicken picked up perfectly. We paired with a white Cotes-du-Rhone, from Roussanne, Viognier, and Clairette, but the wine was slightly overpowered. Something more aggressively acidic, fruitier would suit this just fine, possibly a German Riesling, a Gruner Veltliner, or a Viognier. You might even be able to get away with one of the more acidic Rosés, something with a bite to it.

Consider me converted. Verjus is my kind of people.

Visiting Tavel, or Living the Dream as Mr. Drink Pink

The Back Story:

Exhibit A: The Rosé I ordered (first of 2 glasses) at Chateau O'Brien in 95 degree heat

So, according to Dezel from My Vine Spot, I am Mr. Drink Pink. It’s not surprising given that, to the amusement of everyone I do wine tours with, if we’re sitting outside, I usually go for the Rosé. It’s the best of both worlds, I tell you!

Considering this, if I were planning a wine tour, where would I go? There is, of course, Champagne, the most legendary of sparkling regions, the only French region allowed to create Rosé by blending red and white grapes. Then again, I’m rather fond of continuing to have money in my bank account.

Languedoc is a recently trendy area that has found favor in the New World due to it’s producers’ willingness to eschew AOC traditions in favor of American-friendly and single-varietal wines. While there’s a ton of mass-produced schlock to wade through (Languedoc produces more wine than the entire United States), the good stuff is worth finding. Kind of like California, if you simplify it, really. Ehm… I can get California from California without crossing an ocean to get it. Let’s move on.

Nope… my friends (and frienemies), my choice for Mr. Drink Pink’s holiday getaway is none other than the Rhone region of Tavel. A Rosé-only AOC, Tavel is where my heart belongs. I just didn’t know it until now. Classic big red grapes are turned into luscious, delicate palate pleasers in this region, and the designation as a pink region means that everything about the grapes is traditionally geared towards these wines.

Because flying there would be a bit of a hassle, and because my passport is currently out of commission, I’ll do the next best thing. The solution? Popping the cork on a Château de Ségriès 2008 Tavel, n’est pas?

The Results:

The appearance of the wine is a beautiful, pure, deep red, almost like cranberry juice. It doesn’t appear to be terribly full-bodied.

The nose of the wine is overwhelmingly fruity, with a slightly cool alcohol scent. Notes of citrus, strawberries, and ripe apple round out a fantastically summery scent.

The mouth feel of the wine is very crisp, with a pleasantly high acidity. It’s a bit hefty, owing to the Syrah influence and extensive skin contact, but it’s well-balanced.

The flavor of the wine is a bit simple but still delicious. Rich apple cider dominates, with strawberries and oranges coming through on the mid-palate. The finish is fairly long with a tart apple flavor.

For the Casual Drinker:

This is going to be a bit more aggressive than your typical Rosé. That said, it’s still too dry and delicate to handle the really hefty meals. I paired it with a bacon and onion pizza, and the salt and spice managed to slightly overwhelm the flavor. Regardless, it has a delicious, well-balanced fruit flavor, which is good for sipping on its own.

The Conclusion:

This is a drink now affair, offering a consistent experience from vintage to vintage. It’s a bit rare but not terribly difficult to get a hold of, and the 09s are apparently drinking very well as well. Essentially, it’s about as good as you’re going to get for Rosé under $20, and there’s plenty of good stuff out there. 7/10

In Case You Missed It:

Wine: Tavel (Rosé)

Producer: Château de Ségriès

Region: Tavel, Rhone, France

Varietal(s): Grenache, Cinsault, Syrah

Vintage: 2008

Residual Sugar: unknown

Alcohol: 14%

pH: unknown

Price: $18

Purchased at: Chapel Hill Wine Company

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