Just a sampling of what our editors and contributors are drinking. We were almost all wine this week… until I had to mess it up with a big New York-brewed beer.

Photo Evan Dawson: Raymond Usseglio 2001 Chateauneuf-du-Pape

the referee in a weight-loss contest for two friends — a contest
recently ended in swift and decisive fashion — my task is to select a
half case of wine for the victor, paid for by the non-victor.

I have my
regional marching orders, so I'm enjoying the research required to make
good selections.

This wine might make the cut.

than most wine regions, I find the wines of the Northern Rhone,
Southern Rhone, Piedmont and Montalcino to fall neatly into bifurcated
categories: either you're in the pumped up, more homogeneous new
school, or you're in the lower-alcohol more elegant old school. This is
an over-simplification, sure, but it's an easy rule of thumb.

And yet I've been discovering wines
with elements of both schools. This wine hews more toward the elegant,
nuanced style. It's also a relative CdP bargain. And nine years old,
it's showing beautifully.

Combined with the Northern Rhone 2004
Bonserine La Sarrasine that I also sampled this week, I think we're
finding the value wines that could fill out the winner's spoils.

Wineweb_kleinezalze_CB Julia Burke: Kleine Zalze Estate Chenin Blanc

I visited Kleine Zalze Estate over the weekend for two reasons: first,
they share a vineyard site with us from which we get some of our very
best merlot and viognier, so I was eager to taste their wines and look
for similarities. Second, they are within walking distance of
Blaauwklippen and I was without a vehicle.

I passed their gorgeous
mountainside vineyards (and ours) and kicked off my tasting with what's
becoming my favorite white grape, chenin blanc.

This particular chenin, my favorite of the three on the
list, is a touch sweet (the blend is 60% botrytis-affected grapes and
40% ripe, fruity grapes) and intoxicatingly complex, and at R37 (about
US$3 per bottle) I couldn't afford NOT to drink it. I took a bottle
home to pair with fresh baked bread, gouda cheese, and passionfruit for
a lunchtime picnic.

In addition to gorgeous fig, toasted lemongrass,
and buttery toffee flavors the nose offers an intriguing stony and
almost petrolly flavor, like a good aged riesling. It made me want to
run back to the cellar and taste our nearly-completely-fermented
viognier to look for similarities. If the nose is an elegant heiress,
the palate is a voluptuous bombshell with an explosion of tropical
fruit and just the right touch of oak for a scrumptious finish. It's
just about everything I could want in a white wine.

Atwater_stonebridge_NV Bryan Calandrelli: Atwater Estate Vineyards NV Stone Bridge Red

While working in a local tasting room recently a gentleman walked in and introduced himself as being from Atwater Vineyards. I love when industry folk come in and I made sure to ask him immediately what he brought us from his winery.

A bit surprised at my forwardness he seemed to enjoy the idea that we were that interested, so he went out to his car and brought in this bottle of Atwater Stone Bridge Red table wine. Not exactly the first wine I'd ask for in their tasting room but still interesting because I appreciate a winery having an accessible table red for under $10 on their menu.

With dark cherry and plum aromas the nose was pleasant. It did have some overt aromas that I associate with hybrid grapes like Frontenac and I wasn't surprised to find out the blend is cabernet franc, Marechal Foch and Corot Noir.

Grapes like Corot Noir make me think of red candy flavors and I can only assume that there's a big niche of drinkers out there that like a red with big candied fruit flavors like this blend.

Overall I appreciate the niche a wine like this fills in a tasting room. Not everyone needs to bring home a bottle of Meritage or pinot noir. Some people just want an inexpensive easy drinking wine to remember a winery by and this is a great example of that.

Hebrew_bittersweetlennys Lenn Thompson: He'Brew Bittersweet Lenny's RIPA (Rye-based IPA)

Some would say (or at least think and keep it to themselves) that this beer was named for me. Not so, but I did enjoy it quite a bit as I sat down to watch the gold-medal game yesterday afternoon.

This is a big beer (10% abv) but pretty well balanced with a load of malty character with plenty of hops to satisfy hop heads too (including me).

The rye is quite noticeable, reminding me a bit of bran flakes with a sprinkling of baking spice. There's also a strong fruity core here with raisin and dried cherry before a jolt of herby-piney hops.

It's maybe a little sweeter than I'd drink more than one of and the alcohol peeks through just a bit at the end, but I really enjoy this one.

Picture 7 Tom Mansell: Robertson Winery Gewürztraminer 2008 Special Late Harvest

Yesterday, I attended a Gewürztraminer tasting at Damiani Wine Cellars, part of what will be a monthly series exploring grape varieties with wines from around the world.

The nose on this ZA wine was unlike any Gewürztraminer I've ever had.

At first it reminded me of the way someone's jacket smells after a smoke break. When the ashtray died down, I got pine needles, a huge blast of terpenes, with hardly any of the classic lychee/rose Gewürztraminer varietal character. 

On the palate, citrus peel comes out to play but is overwhelmed by a mouthful of botrytis…in a good way, with a long finish that isn't too sweet, belying its late harvest status.

While it's not a textbook Gewürztraminer, I loved its complexity and the diverse array of aromas it brought to the table. 

For more thoughts on this tasting and development of varietal character in
Gewürztraminer, look for my science post this Thursday.

IMG00551-20100227-1427 Andy Freedman: Quinta do Vallado 2007 Douro Red

We tasted about 75 wines (maybe more) from all over the world this past
Saturday at the NY Wine Expo Grand Tasting at the Javits Center.

Several local New York wineries were there at the Grand Tasting
pouring their wares too. We chatted with Barbara Frank of Dr. Frank's
Vinifera Wine Cellars and were happy to see our friends from Bedell
Cellars there pouring their high-end and pretty limited release 2006
Musee (we have a few bottles of the 2005, but had yet to try the '06).

Portugal had an amazing presence front and center at the Grand
Tasting. After tasting a couple of reds from the Douro and Alentejo
regions, I quickly recalled why I predicted last year that these
Portuguese reds would soon blow up here in the US. It hasn't happened
yet, but it's coming.

Portuguese reds that retail for $13 to $25 drink like $45 to $60. I
was most impressed with the 2007 Quinta do Vallado Douro Red. It's a
mix of Touriga Franca, Touriga Nacional, Tinta Roriz, Amarela and
Sousao with a portion of the blend being aged in French oak barrels and
pours a dark red, crimson with some spice notes and berries on the
nose. It's a big, but very smooth drinking wine with nice, rounded
tannins and would nicely complement a wide variety of foods.

The differentiator is the Touriga Nacional grape, that gives the
wine some nice floral and violet notes. Be on the lookout for some good
value Portuguese reds coming soon (hopefully) to a wine shop near you.