After a many-week hiatus, the team has decided to renew our commitment to our weekly What We Drank feature, where we offer a peek into some of the beer, wine and spirits we’re enjoying — local or not.
Lenn Thompson, Executive Editor: Sheldrake Point 2009 BLK 3 Pinot Noir
Sometimes, all you need to know about a wine is how quickly it is emptied at dinner with some friends.
As often as possible, my wife and I have been doing a traditional Sunday dinner where the four of us — my wife and our two kids — eat together. Anna is nearly two, so eating is kind of relative, but the idea is that our lives are only going to get crazier and crazier as Jackson adds more activities to soccer and basketball and baseball and karate — and then Anna starts doing the same, so let’s create a Sunday mid-afternoon tradition of comfort-food dinner together. This time around, I roasted a chicken, roasted some veggies and we invited some friends of ours over to join us.
My feelings about New York chardonnay are well documented, so the ‘classic’ pairing with roast chicken wasn’t going to happen — but this pinot struck me as a good idea. And it was. Clearly.
It was fruitier than I remember it being when I last had it, but with plenty of varietal character — earthy, woodsy spice flavors. Silky on the palate with fresh acidity. It was great while it lasted. I think I only got one glass because it was so popular with not only my wife but our guests. The second bottle, a 2007 Meritage from Atwater, was nearly as popular. Food. Wine. Friends. Tradition. I like that our kids are going to know that growing up.
Evan Dawson, Managing Editor: Jean-Michel Stephan 2005 Cote-Rotie
The inevitable consequence of drinking a lot of wine is that it becomes harder to get truly excited about individual bottles. That’s probably, after all, a good thing. It means we’re looking for something distinctive. Opening this bottle reminded me about what I find ever-stimulating about wines of place.
This wine is so distinctly Cote-Rotie, and so distinctly Syrah, that you could sooner be convinced that Hillary Clinton is a Republican than you would be convinced this wine is anything else.
I had the 2009 vintage of this wine last year and it was riddled with Brett, so I was cautious. I needn’t have been. This is a rustic, muscular, dense wine with very little overt fruit. Those are all glowingly positive descriptors in my vocabulary. Drinking this wine after weeks of anonymous mediocrity is like reading David Rakoff after too many Jonathan Franzen wannabes. Authenticity and greatness are still, gloriously, with us.
Michael Gorton, Long Island Correspondent: Weingut Berger 2012 Gruner Veltliner
I’m a Gruner novice. I can count on one hand the number of times I had a glass. I have always found them out of balance, a bit warm on the back end and full of spice. Not something I look for in a white wine especially when I am told that it is a perfect summer, kick back wine. Granted, I this was my first from Austria, but I have to find a keeper sometime.
I found that keeper when I opened this bottle. A 2012 bottle of Berger Gruner Veltiner, as you will see it in wine shops. What is even more impressive, at $9.95, it is a steal in a one liter bottle. I have always been on the lookout for it, but I never can seem to find it in my local shops. Who knew I would have to travel almost 1000 miles south to find it.
Gruner Veltiner, a white wine variety grown in Austria, Slovakia and the Czech Republic mainly, it is found in some parts of the new world. Her in NYS you can find it up in the Finger lakes Region and in fact here on Long Island. I have always wanted more in the Gruner Veltliner’s I have tasted, and this one brought it all. I don’t think I need to search and taste others, but you know I will.
The palate was mineral driven, with hints of lemon, herb, grass and richness. Floral notes lifted as the wine came to room temperature as did the traditional subtle spice. The palate brought more of the same, mineral, floral and citrus with a hint of sweetness that resembled some residual sugar, but I don’t think there was any. Crisp, dry and refreshing it had a lengthy finish that reminded me of lemon verbena cheesecake. The acidity left me wanting another glass, and before I knew it, it was gone.
I grabbed this bottle at the famous DeKalb Farmers Market in Decatur, just outside of Atlanta where I am visiting family. The market was tremendous and where I was happily surprise to find Long Island’s own, Crescent Duck Farm!
I picked this up as an aperitif with family and it was a huge hit. When the 2013 is out, I will seek out cases of this wine and you will find it as my every day, backyard, summer wine.
Gibson Campbell, Downstate Beer Correspondent: Martin & Anna Arndorfer 2012 Vorgeschmack
After doing a tasting at a great wine shop last week, I felt it necessary to go shop the Austrian wine section. I’m not so familiar with wines produced there so I picked up a few bottles to better orient myself. One wine that impressed was a small production wine made by Martin & Anna Arndorfer, located in Strass, Austria. The couple produces less than 4,000 cases per-year, sourcing grapes from vineyards perched atop rock, loess, and clay soils in the Kamptal region along the Kamp river. This cool-climate growing region grows primarily Gruner Veltliner and Riesling. Their introductory white “Vorgeschmack” is a blend of 80%Gruner and 20% Riesling.
The nose is dominated by a strong lemon character, with a flinty-graphite aroma revealed as it warmed. Tart green-apple flavors are suspended in a slightly viscous mouthfeel. High acidity balanced the more ripe flavors of white peach and a white-pepper spiciness. A slight orange peel bitterness drew out the long dry finish. All in all I absolutely fell in love with this wine and a region all at once. The structure and dryness of this wine instantly reminded me of a few whites I’ve tried from The Finger Lakes Region. It was a great pair to the local Fluke a friend caught and I cooked with a spicy pickled cabbage topping. At $19 retail, I would definitely seek out some of their high end wines with even smaller productions (some less than 30 cases). A NYC Sommeliers wet-dream, this esoteric wine was easier to enjoy than it is to pronounce. \
Todd Trzaskos, North Country Correspondent:
A gift cider from neighbors who had made a recent trip to Montreal, because west coast family was visiting, and needed some extended itinerary points of interest. I’d been sharing stories of Quebec and they wanted to see what I’d been going on about for years. They had a lovely weekend of dining, arts and shopping around the city. The California cousin left saying that she was in awe, and that if she lived in the North Country she’d have to restrain herself from going up every other weekend. They hit an SAQ store on the way out, and allotted for me, one of the two bottles each with which they could cross the border to home. Admittedly they said they knew nothing about their choice, they just liked the label.
Straightforward McIntosh juice ferment that’s fairly linear yet tasty enough to satisfy most folk. Earthy orchard harvest aromas with a bit of the sticky browning skin notes that seem to bring in the bees. It’s a fresh splash when it lands and arrives sweet, but a much greener granny smith-like tartness appears than expected. The residual sugar offsets the malic edge more through texture than flavor. We had it as an aperitif but I could see it as a good foil for a spicy Indian or Asian cuisine. Makes me think of Rue St. Denis. Time to plan another trip nord.
Michael Chelus, Niagara/Erie Correspondent: Chateau Niagara 2012 Trinity
While culling through the bottles I bought on my last trip to Niagara County, I came across this one. The Trinity made by Chateau Niagara is a Bordeaux-inspired red blend that flips the usual proportions. Instead of being heavily dominated by cabernet sauvignon like most notable Bordeaux blends, Trinity is 80% cabernet franc. This is a deliberate effort undertaken by winemaker, Jim Baker, to exhibit the varietal that he feels “grows better in the Niagara Region than anywhere else in world.”
Lindsay Prichard, Finger Lakes Correspondent: Rodenbach Grand Cru
When it comes to beer, I like a pretty wide variety of styles. What I’m partial to are beers with distinctive tastes and flavors. Unfortunately, in today’s “me too” world of brewing, it is getting harder to find a quality beer that stands out from the rest. But I recently found an imported Belgian beer that fills the bill.
Last week I went at a local Belgian-themed beer bar to check out their latest selections. I noticed several of my favorites on their menu, but decided that I wanted to try something new. Based on the short, but enticing description, I decided to go with the Rodenbach Grand Cru.
It came in a small snifter and had a dark, ruby color. I knew I had made a good choice when I took the first sniff. I immediately picked up an interesting mix of aromas including some that I had not found previously in a beer. I dove in and took a sip. As I swirled it around, my tasted buds were tantalized with a unique mix of sweet and sour flavors. The malty sweetness was a perfect juxtaposition to the sour cherry flavor. On a second sip, other flavors emerged including tart cranberry and smooth vanilla. We had ordered a charcuterie platter, and the beer paired perfectly with the selection of salted meats and smoked cheeses.
A few days later, I bought a 750ml bottle from my favorite beer retailer. I discovered from the label that the beer is a blend of 33% “young ale” and 67% “ale matured for two years.” Later, I found out that the aging was done in oak.
I made the mistake of over-chilling the bottle, so it was a bit too cold when I opened it. The result was that several of the flavors were suppressed. But after letting it warm a bit, the full range of flavors returned.
If you’re like me and think beer should be an experience, you might want to give Rodenbach Grand Cru a try.