What We Drank (July 2, 2013 Edition)

Posted July 2, 2013 by Lenn Thompson in Features

wwd-july2

Here’s just a sampling of the libations that crossed the palates of our editors and contributors…

Evan Dawson: Chateau la Canorgue 2012 Rose
I am sad for those who don’t know the joys of Provencal rose on a summer evening. Wine doesn’t typically fit into seasonal categories — I drink plenty of red in the summer and plenty of white in the winter — but rose is a seasonal wine. It is summer. A clever writer might describe it as summer in a glass, even.

New York roses are gaining in quality and quantity. I drink them happily. But Provence still sets the standard, and here is a beautiful vin gris.

These wines shouldn’t be complex, but they should be just captivating to smell. If food enhances wine, the summer heat and sun enhances rose. We’ve been drinking pastis on warm afternoons too, but rose is the first choice. By now, you’ve come around to dry rose, haven’t you? If not, join us. There is still summer left.

David Flaherty: Big House White 2012 (California)
So you’re gonna have a party. And you need some wine. Here are a few factors to consider: wine must flow the duration of the party, wine must be just above passable (or slightly greater depending on the crowd). This last Friday night we had a “moving to China” event for our friends. Yep, two good friends, and their little daughter, moving to China. I know. Back to the wine.

For our party purposes, we have a white carpet — so color of beverage and its particular stainability factor needed to be considered. This meant white wine. At our local shop (and let’s face it at everyone’s local shop) was this boxed beauty bangin’ out for a cool $20.

Randall Grahm’s former project (sold off long ago), Big House White, comes in a 3-liter Tetra-Pack — perfect for throwing in the trunk or a wheel barrow of ice. But it is a play in sleek form and technology with its air bladder housed in recyclable cardboard, and super convenient to pour for the masses.

The wine? Entirely non-offensive, and in fact, quite tasty. And the value? Forget about it. But the bonus? You’ll probably have a fair amount of juice left over to plop in your fridge and nurse off for a few days. And that’s always a bonus.

Todd Trzaskos: Bonny Doon 2010 Edna Valley Jesperson’s Ranch Syrah
Strip steaks on the grill, bok choy, hakurei turnips, and garlic scapes roasting in a cast iron next to them as summer shows itself for just a bit between the copious rains…

Meaty, wet soil aromatics in the glass as I ponder my recent opportunity to get down to earth and chew the fat with Randall Grahm when he visited our neighborhood for the local summer wine festivals last weekend. He may still lose sleep over the failure to achieve the ‘Great American Pinot Noir,’ but I think he should rest easy knowing that he’s producing some damn fine American syrahs.

The Jespersen’s reminds me of somebody’s homemade blueberry beef jerky that I had years ago, in which a fresh outer layer of flavor conveyed the fruit but was really a vestment for the tense smoky-chewy center, always asking me to take another bite.

It seems to me, that in many ways this kind of syrah should be exiting American palates far more frequently. Pinots, as great as they can be, reach an elegance that is not commonly understood or appreciated by average consumers, and instead it becomes over-extracted and moody, and tries to move towards a place where cool syrah lives naturally. A visceral, vital, fresh faced wine with complexity and density below the surface…this to me resembles what tasters are really after. And from a syrah grown in a vineyard that is mostly pinot noir.

Len Dest: Feudi di San Gregorio 2011 Falanghina del Sannio, Campania, Sorbo Serpico (Avellino), Italy
Until five years I seldom drank Italian white wines, unless I had no choice. Far too many whites were just not great (perhaps the exported wines were not the best produced in Italy), and there were so many grape varieties and styles it was difficult to select the next bottle and not get a major surprise. After traveling more frequently to Italy and touring the wine regions, as well as reading a great deal about the hundred of Italian grape varieties (I keep two great books on Italian grapes and wines by 1) Joe Bastianich & David Lynch, and 2) Patricia Guy close at hand), I am beginning to find some wonderful white wines that are comparable to other great wine regions.

Falanghina is an ancient Italian white wine grape, believed to be of Greek origin. It is also believed that Falanghina was the grape variety behind Falernian, the most famous wine of Roman Empire which gained praise from the ancient writer and philosopher Pliny the Elder, who is credited by some as being the creator of the phrase in vino veritas (there is truth in wine). Falanghina isn’t planted much outside Campania and is often blended with other indigenous Italian varieties. However, there has been a renaissance of interest in falanghina in the last 25 years and there are dedicated efforts to re-establish the grape variety as a quality Italian white grape variety. The falanghina vines primarily thrive in the warm Mediterranean climate of the Sannio region in Southwest Italy. Sannio is a hilly area north of Naples in the heart of the Campania region. Sannio gained its DOC status in 1997 and its regulations require that the grapes be sourced from hillside vineyards, where the climate is ideal for the cultivation of quality vines, rather than valley floor vineyards where the temperature is higher with increased humidity.

Founded in 1986, Feudi di San Gregorio has become a symbol of the wine producing renaissance in Southern Italy. The winery has been recognized as one of the top modern wineries in Italy. Their falanghina hillside vineyards are located near Mt.Vesuvius in mineral rich volcanic soils.

This is an interesting aromatic wine with unusual aromas and complex flavors. Light straw in color, the wine has an herbaceous aroma along with tropical citrus aromas. The flavors are of ripe apples, pears, and vanilla (but not from oak as the wine is stainless steel fermented and aged), with limited acidity but some salinity/minerality. As such it is a nice wine to sip on, have with hor d’oeuvres, pasta dishes (without red sauces) and other light seafood, shellfish, and poultry.

Gibson Campbell: Beer Fields
This past weekend was the Beerfields festival – held at the Pennysaver Amphitheater in Selden, NY. Although there were only a few local breweries represented out of the 50+ there at Beerfields, it was great to try some international brews alongside some of Long Island’s best. There are way too many beers to mention so I picked two of my favorites – one local, one Michigan based.

Dark Horse Brewing Company Reserve Special Black Ale: I started out the day tasting the darker beers that aren’t as enjoyable with a full beer-belly and blazing heat. Dark Horse Brewing Co. brews one of my favorite IPAs, the “Crooked Tree” so I was eager to try something else they brew. The Black Ale had all the aromas of a stout or porter, but is much lighter in body. A mild carbonation and deliciously dense cocoa flavor settle in on the tongue. Ample hops and some grapefruit flavor lift the palate and give it a crisp quality. The finish is soft but long with a balanced 7% ABV. Glad I got some of this beer before the line formed in front of their booth.

Great South Bay BreweryBlood Orange Pale Ale: This beer was a huge surprise to me the first time I tasted it. I’m usually petrified of beer with fruit added to it. Try to serve me one and I might de-friend you. That being said, after two hours of walking around in the sun, trying an array of food and beer, the Blood Orange Pale Ale was exactly what I needed. Fruit forward and citrus character on the nose was expected, but the hoppy dry finish was definitely not. With around 40 IBU’s and a 5%ABV this was one beer that I was happy to come back for a second serving.

Michael Gorton: Turning 40
When you’re a wine and beer geek like me, and you reach a milestone, you are supposed to celebrate that achievement with something special; Pop the cork on a birth year wine or go all out and buy that special bomber you have been waiting to drop some coins on. Well, I may have to give back my membership card. I have been saying for weeks now that I would be heading into the city to seek out a birth year wine. I had my hopes of finding a 1973 cabernet sauvignon from Napa (look up Judgment of Paris).

Well, I never made it to NYC to explore and find what I was looking for. There’s always 50.

However, since I just turned 40, there was a lot of wine opened at my wishes or expense. On Sunday my family took me out east to wine country. I never wanted to do anything, but I did agree to this little celebration. Family made some picnic foods, I picked out the cheese and the places we would imbibe. We met up at Clovis Point in Jamesport, an under-appreciated winery, that no matter the vintage the keep turning out delicious wines. Their just-released 2011 cabernet franc shows what clean healthy fruit in a down vintage in the hands of a talented winemaker in John Leo can produce a food friendly, ripe and delicious wine. Ripe and floral with hints of savory herb and sweet cedar, it went nicely with some aged Gouda and a piece of quiche. It packs a lot of acidity so it would pair nicely with food, but give it some time open and it will show even nicer.

While that wine still sticks with me, the wine that won the weekend for me was Shinn Estate Vineyards desert wine the Sherry-like 2009 Veil. It was made with sauvignon blanc and semillon de-stemmed and co-fermented on its skins. Then sat two years in barrel until bottling. I remember being there that day helping with harvest when this fruit came in. This was the first time I had it in bottle, I did have it once or twice from barrel. This is bone dry. It’s not cloying. It’s not sweet. It’s a serious desert wine perfect for a cheese plate or even a simple panna cotta. Nutty, oxidized with hints of orange peel and an interesting candied fruit and spice note. An orange wine like in spirit, it shows great balance and quenching acidity with a well hidden 18% ABV. I paired nicely with chili roasted olives with lemon…but more on where those olives came from later.

Lenn Thompson: A Family Vacation in Florida
You may have noticed a lack of posts last week. That’s not because the team and I weren’t writing — it’s because I was in Florida for a week with my family and had trouble getting images to load via the wifi in our condo. We’ll make up for it this week and next though. You’ll see.

Not knowing the wine shop landscape where we stayed, I shipped a case of wine ahead of us. It didn’t last long (my parents and sister were on this trip as well so each bottle doesn’t goes far) but one of the standouts was Peconic Bay Winery 2011 Semi-Dry Riesling. Fruity, juicy and with nice verve, it serves as a gentle reminder that the Finger Lakes region isn’t alone in making top-notch value riesling.

Once that case was gone, I made my first visit to Total Wine — by far the largest wine, beer and spirits shop I’ve ever stepped into. Focusing on beer, crisp whites and dry rose, we did quite well in picking Hugl Weine 2011 Gruner Veltliner (in a 1L bottle), which didn’t last long at the beach and a 2012 Rose D’Anjou (I can’t remember the producer) that followed it. I loved a couple farmhouse ales from Stillwater Artisan Ales, which I hear are newly available in New York (a good thing). Another standout was the six-pack (cans) of Cigar City Brewing  Florida Cracker White Ale — a thirst-quencher that kept me just a bit cooler when I was standing over a hot grill cooking dinner one evening.

My favorite part? I didn’t pull out my tasting notebook once. Sometimes I need to be reminded that it’s okay to simply drink and not analyze to death. I guess that’s what vacations are for.