Forget the candies tonight, they're too sweet and not wine friendly at all. Have a glass of wine instead, for example, the 2003 Muccigrosso Pinot Noir from the Santa Cruz Mountains. This is one of my favorite Pinots. It is medium red in color with an attractive nose of sweet berry fruit. The palate is juicy, fruity and very well-balanced in terms of acidity and tannins. The finish is long and spicy. This is the kind of Pinot Noir that has more fruit and body than a Burgundy but is not as big, jammy, Syrah-like as so many California Pinots.
As a bonus point, it works very well with pumpkin. Enjoy it with a Pumpkin Risotto that you can make with the remaining flesh left over from your pumpkin carving.
Our last wine club tasting event was in September, kindly hosted by my sister in law. This was our first gathering after the long summer break and it was great to see everybody again. And this time, in order to prolong our summer vacation memories, I had decided to select a set of summer wines from different Mediterranean regions.
So that day, we tasted 7 different wines, two whites, one rosé, and four reds, from Greece, Spain, Sicily, Provence, and Roussillon. Here are my notes:
• 2006 Sigalas Santorini Assyrtiko. Santorini is the southernmost and maybe the most beautiful member of the Cyclades islands in the Aegean Sea. It is a a volcanic island that suffered a devastating explosion around 1500 BC, leaving a huge, submerged caldera where the center of the Island had been. The island is covered with volcanic ash, lava and pumice stone, perfect soil conditions to grow vines. There is little rain during the year, except in winter. However, nocturnal moisture coming from the sea brings needed water to the vines. The dominant white grape is Assyrtiko, often described as Greece's best white varietal. Growing on the arid, volcanic soils of Santorini, the varietal is known to produce very distinctive wines. My notes: Light yellow color, aromas of white flowers on the nose, fresh acidity on the palate. The perfect summer sipper.
• 2003 Vin de Pays des Côtes Catalanes Blanc Domaine Olivier Pithon La D18: Olivier Pithon has been involved in winemaking from an early age. His Grandfather was making wines in Anjou and his brother is one of the best Loire Valley producers. The D18 cuvée was named after a local breathtaking road that goes through the Corbières mountains, west of Perpignan, and is based on a selection of the best slopes of White and Grey Grenache. My notes: yellow color, herbal nose, oxidized sherry flavors on the palate. Was the wine flawed?
• 2005 Descendientes de Jose Palacios Petalos del Bierzo : Bierzo is a small wine region in Northwestern Spain. The main variety is Mencia, an indigenous grape that was thought to be related to Cabernet Franc. The wine is made by Alvaro Palacios, one of Priorat's leading producers, and his family. My notes: 100% Mencia, dark purple color, peppery nose with notes of violet, thick with tannins on the palate, ripe fruits flavors, long finish. A serious wine.
• 2002 Benanti Etna Rosso di Verzella: The wine comes from the volcanic, sun-drenched, arid slopes of Mount Etna. It is a blend of Nerello Mascalese and Nerello Cappuccio, the two main indigenous grape varieties of the Etnean region. The Azienda Vinicola Benanti is one of the best producers of the region and was recently awarded the Winery of the Year title at a Gambero Rosso event in San Francisco. My notes: medium red color, fragrant herbaceous aromas on the nose, fruity, slightly pruny, nice mineral finish. Extremely food friendly.
• 2003 Bandol Domaine de la Bégude: The wines of the Bandol appellation are considered the best of Provence. One of the reason for their special typicity is the high amount of Mourvèdre that has to be included in the blend (at least 50% for the appellation). The vineyard of the Domaine de la Bégude is situated at the top of the appellation, 400 meters above the Mediterranean sea. The vines are cultivated on terraces facing south. Their red Bandol is a blend of 85% Mourvèdre and 15% Grenache. My notes: red ruby color, nose of black currant and caramel, elegant and balanced on the palate, aromatic finish. Classy!
• 2004 Côtes du Roussillon Domaine Le Roc des Anges Vieilles Vignes: The Domaine des Anges is a 13 hectare estate located 30 kilometers northwest of Perpigan in the Côtes du Roussillon appellation. The vineyard comprises old vines of Carignan, Grenache Gris, Grenache Noir, Syrah, and Maccabeu growing on decomposed flaky schists, which allow excellent drainage and encourage the vines to form deep root systems. The Vieilles Vignes cuvée is a blend of 40% Carignan, 40% Grenache Noir, and 20% Syrah with an average vine age of around 70 years old. My notes: dark color, nose of ripe black fruits, rich and full on the palate, almost chewy. Should be perfect with a beef stew.
Our next tasting event will feature a selection of wines from Argentina and Chile. These two countries are making better wines than ever and they are still very affordable, so stay tuned!
Knowing that wines from North Africa are almost impossible to find here, my husband recently came back from Paris with a bottle of Guerrouane gris. It is true that we haven't drunk a wine from North Africa for a long time. When we were still living in France, we used to regularly go to North African restaurants and we would always order a bottle of Moroccan vin gris to accompany our couscous.
A vin gris is a pale rosé wine that is produced by leaving the grape juice in contact with the skin for a very short time. Afterward, the winemaking process is similar to the one used for white wines.
Guerrouane is one of the best wine regions of Morocco and has been known for producing wines for more than 2000 years. It is located in the northern part of the country at the foothills of the Atlas Mountains. The Domaine de Sahari, owned by the Maison Malesan of Bordeaux, has 600 hectares of vines growing at an elevation of 550 meters in clay-limestone soils. The estate produces 2 wines, a Guerrouane rouge and a Guerrouane gris.
The 2005 Domaine de Sahari Vin Gris Cuvée du Soleil is a blend of Grenache (40%), Cinsault (50%), and Carignan (10%). When we poured the wine into our glasses, it had a lovely light orange-brick color. The nose was subtle with aromas of honey and red fruit. The palate had an oily mouthfeel, leaving notes of caramel on the finish.
Needless to say, we ate a couscous with the wine. It was actually a Fish Couscous that went particularly well with the vin gris.
I have to admit that I rarely drink Portugese wines, except during one memorable summer vacation that I spent in Alentejo near the historic city of Evora. But this was many years ago and at the time, I don't remember being particularly impressed by the local wines. Now, Portuguese viticulture has made dramatic advances since that summer and it was time to try a Portuguese wine again.
The José Maria da Fonseca estate is located not far from Lisbon on the Setúbal peninsula. It is actually the oldest producer of table wines in Portugal and has been making wines for almost 200 years. The Periquita brand was created in 1850 by José Maria da Fonseca himself. The dominant grape of the blend is Castelão, a indigenous variety planted all over southern Portugal that thrives in the sandy soils of the region.
Periquita Classico is a Special Reserve bottling that is made only in exceptional vintages. It is 100% Castelão from a 25-acre estate vineyard in the Terras do Sado appellation, composed primarily of sand and clay-lime components . The wine has a deep garnet color. The nose is assertive, warm, and spicy. The palate is full, rich, with sweet fruit flavors. Highly Recommended, especially for the price!
The producer is the Movia Estate, one of the largest wineries in Slovenia's Brda region. The estate is made of fifteen hectares of vineyards, including seven right across the border, in Italy's Collio region (Brda is the Slovenian name for Collio and means hills). Movia has been an independent winery since 1820 and the winery owner, Ales Kristancic, was among the first winegrowers in the area to market their wines under their own brand name.
What Ales Kristancic is looking for is a complete fusion between wine, land and people. He farms his vineyard using biodynamic methods and ages his white wines in Slovenian oak casks, leaving them on the lees without stirring for more than two years. The 2004 Movia Ribolla is 100% Ribolla Gialla, one of the major indigenous white grapes from Italy's Friuli region. The name Ribolla may come from the word re-boil in Italian because the grape tends to re-ferment in spring when it gets warmer. Gialla simply means yellow. The grape is also known as Rebula on the Slovenia side.
The wine had a bright golden color. The nose was attractive with stone fruit aromas. The palate was round with some weight and subdued flavors of apple and pear. But I have to say that I was slightly disappointed by the wine. I was expecting much more acidity and fresher flavors. Maybe it was too much oak, maybe too much lees. Who knows?