Monday, April 4, 2011

Canadian red wine with rack of lamb - not bad for a Monday

The last time I was in my hometown of Vancouver, I saw my cousin Marion, who gave me a bottle of red wine from one of her favored British Columbian producers. I saved it to open tonight since rack of lamb is in the oven. The wine is 2008 Laughing Stock Vineyards, Portfolio from the Okanagan. More specifically, the winery is in Penticton, a gorgeous town in the Okanagan valley. I have fond memories of Penticton, though I was there prior to the fairly recent boom in the wine industry. The winery is owned by Edmonton-born David Enns who made his first wine here in 2001. Before being a winemaker, he was in the financial industry in Vancouver, which may account for why his whimsical labels look like ticker tapes and the winery and wine names make reference to the stock market. They have 2.2 hectares (5.4 acres) of vines on Naramata Road in Penticton, a very small production family owned winery. 2008 Portfolio is a Bordeaux-style blend made from 53% Merlot, 24% Cabernet Sauvignon, 12% Cabernet Franc, 12% Malbec, and 2% Petit Verdot. It spends 19 months in barrel 50% new and 50 second use, 100% French oak. I have to say that I very much like the wine! It has a pretty nose of blackberries, blueberries, and creamy vanilla, not oak, and on the palate, the wine is juicy, round, pleasant, with nice weight, without being too jammy or oaky. The wine is going perfectly with my lamb right now, and I'm finding myself curious about making a journey to go visit the winery. Thank you Marion for a great bottle of wine and look forward to seeing you soon!

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Pouring Salwey reds and Hooked Riesling @ El Vino Wine Shop for Venice Beach's "First Friday"

The first Friday of every month brings a festive block party to Abbott Kinney Boulevard in Venice Beach, California, a party featuring art galleries displaying their lastest holdings, bars and restaurants opening late, and a wine shop called El Vino that hosts a special wine tasting. This month, on April 1, I was invited by El Vino owner Bart Miali to pour three wines from the Rudi Wiest portfolio for First Friday, when he expected to have between 100 to 150 people come and taste wine! The small, modern, ecclectic shop was buzzing all evening with happy revelers looking to kick off the first warm weekend in spring. People from all over, but mostly locals from around Venice, Marina del Rey, Playa Vista, and Palms came by and bellied up to the bar to taste three wines for $10.
The first of the wines we served was the 2008 Salwey Estate Pinot Noir from the Kaiserstuhl, Baden, which is a terrific little Pinot Noir with forest floor and bright cherry and spice notes. While definitely light bodied, like most German Pinot Noirs when compared with California Pinot Noirs to which most palates here are accustomed, the wine is rich in flavor, and I would say that more people last evening who tasted the wine got it than didn't. Those that liked it praised the wine for its complexity, acidity and overall delicious bright flavor; those who didn't like it felt the cherry flavors in it were unripe (I would describe it more as bright and maybe sour cherry than unripe). This wine is terrific with roast duck breast, duck confit, roast chicken, and cured meats. The second of the wines was also from Salwey - 2008 Salwey "16 Degrees" Red Wine - a blend of Pinot Noir and St. Laurent, named 16 Degrees as the winemaker felt this wine should be served at 16 degrees Celsius - a clever point that most tasters accept but have a tougher time knowing what it really means - it actually translates to about 61 degrees Farenheit... basically it means just a tad below room temp, and as the temperature in the tasting room and shop as a whole went up due to there being so many people in it, we began putting bottles of this wine into the ice bucket, which nicely chilled it down. The 16 Degrees has a richer color in the glass than does the Pinot Noir, the St. Laurent grape giving the wine more juicy, ripe fruit character, a rounder palate, but also a bit less complexity - a bit more of a fun red wine blend, with a little more stuffing so it can go well with a burger or a steak, even. Finally, the third wine in the flight was the 2008 Hooked! Riesling from the Nahe region, a Rudi Wiest negotiant wine, where Rudi sourced the grapes and found a winemaker to produce the wine, and he also used an artist he likes out of Berlin to create the label. The Hooked Riesling showed beautifully - it's medium-dry palate was a perfect crispness and fruitiness - like biting into fresh green grapes and apples - that appealed widely to the crowd last evening. It's the perfect Riesling to serve to a varied crowd on a Friday evening, and the price was even better - only $10.99. By the end of the evening, around 10:30 pm, we had indeed served about 100 or more tasters, gone through at least a case of each wine, and sold even more. A good time was had by all, and the wine merchant of Venice, El Vino, enjoyed a successful night.