Category Germany

Willamette Wine 5: The Long-Dudley Wakawaka BBQ

Seth Long and Destiny Dudley Throw an Alaska Salmon, Moose Meat, Oregon Wine Wakawaka BBQ

Thank you to Seth Long and Destiny Dudley for inviting together in one place the five things everyone needs–a wealth of good wines, Salmon, Moose Meat, Oregon Hazelnuts, and the good people of Willamette Valley. We had a wonderful time, and tasted, as I said, a wealth of good wines. Thank you!

wide angle lens photos taken by Destiny Dudley-thank you for sharing them!

Thank you to Destiny Dudley, and Seth Long for being such lovely and generous hosts!

Thank you to my family for sending me down with fresh caught Bristol Bay Salmon, and Moose Meat.

Thank you to Anneka Miller, Jason Lett, Andrew Rich, Jim Maresh, Joseph Zumpeno, Amanda Evey, Timothy Wilson, Drew Voit, Mike Primo. I apologize if I’ve forgotten anyone.

Thank you, finally, to our philosophical belly buttons. And to the hazelnuts.

Copyright 2012 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com

Girl Scout Cookie Season Has Descended; Let Us Find Their Perfect Wine Pairings!, for Katherine

Girl Scout Cookies

Girl Scout Cookie season has hit the United States. Did you know there is even a free iphone app to help you locate where the cookies are available for sale?

I got a request to do tasting note comics for Girl Scout Cookies. On my other comics blog I’ve done that from time to time–draw up tasting notes for random foods. What was desired here was a comic representation of the sentimental favorites’ flavors and general qualities so as to be able to keep celebrating the phenomenon even in their off season.

The truth is, I don’t really eat Girl Scout Cookies. It isn’t that I WOULDN’T. It’s just that I don’t. But the idea of drawing tasting notes for them cracked me up, and the idea of drawing cookie notes alongside wine notes down right made me laugh. So, clearly the way to make the request work was to draw up tasting notes for the cookies alongside their perfect wine pairing.

The goal of any wine and food pairing is to bring together the right elements such that both the food and the wine are improved, so that they become something together they simply weren’t before the combination. It can be nice to have wine and food beside each other even when they don’t improve each other so thoroughly, but it’s a magical experience when the perfect pairing is found.

So, when I announced I was going to take the Girl Scout Cookie Wine Challenge, Katherine offered to bring over cookies in each of the flavors available in our area. Before she showed up I ran to the wine shop where I bumped into James, the head chef of Cuvee 928, and he offered input on my wine pairing ideas. Thank you for his suggestion of the Blanc Pescador and the Oloroso Sherry. And then along the way when a couple of surprise cookies I hadn’t anticipated appeared, @DecantChicago gave a push to go ahead and try a bottle of Demi-Sec Champagne I’d already been considering. Wonderfully by the end of the night we really had hit the perfect pairing for each cookie.

Enjoy!

Thank you to Katherine, James, and Cara Patricia–Decant Chicago–for your help!

Tasting notes appear in recommended tasting order as well.

Trefoils and Blanc Pescador

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Girl Scout’s most classic cookie is their Trefoil Shortbread. The cookie is crisp and buttery with very faint sweetness, and the crunch of a proper biscuit. Honestly one can also taste preservative notes along side the buttery flavor so any good wine pairing would hopefully moderate that lightly bitter element.

The Blanc Pescador is a wonderfully crisp, lightly effervescent Cataluyna table white wine perfect for Mediterranean style seafood dishes. I’ve had it along side fish soup with wonderful results. It even did well as the wine base for Risotto.

It’s made from the same grapes as those allowed for Spanish Cava–50-60% Macabeo, 20-25% Parellada, 20-25% Xarel-lo–but instead of making a full sparkling wine, the winemaker chose to make an effervescent (half-sparkling, basically) style instead.

It’s a perfect pairing for Girl Scout Trefoil Shortbread cookies. The wine increases the buttery flavor of the cookies, while also cutting the preservatives bite, and the cookie ups the mineral quality, and lemon flavor of the wine. Yum!

Savannah Smiles and 2005 Dr. Loosen Erdener Pralat Riesling Auslese

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The Savannah Smiles is a lemon flavored shortbread style cookie rolled in powdered sugar and new to the Girl Scouts this year.

This Riesling Auslese is a beautifully balanced sweet wine. It carries a nice mix of rich fruit and light floral qualities alongside pleasing minerals. This style is often thought of as a dessert wine and with its sweeter quality many people drink it only at the end of a meal. But, it’s worth tasting this with a range of other types of food though from spicy thai food, to blue cheese.

The Erdener Pralat vineyards are a mere 4 acres in the Mosel Valley, but are thought to generate some of the finest wines of the region. This is a wine that does well for decades in the bottle. If you have some it’s well worth holding onto but is also drinking nicely now. It’ll simply gain a deepened complexity over time.

Dr. Loosen’s Erdener Pralat Riesling Auslese is also a perfect pairing for Girl Scout’s new-this-year lemon shortbread style cookie rolled in powdered sugar, their Savannah Smiles. When put along side the sharp tang of the lemon cookie the heavier elements of the wine come into even better balance. The wine mellows the cookie tang, while the cookie lightens syrupy elements of the wine.

Do-Si-Dos and Demi-Sec A. Margaine Premier Cru Champagne

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The Do-Si-Dos were an unexpected addition to our tasting evening. I had thought we had five cookies to review, and didn’t know in advance of this one. The Do-Si-Do is a slightly salty, crisp oatmeal cookie with a thin layer of creamy peanut butter inside. With the combination the cookie carries toasted oatmeal, the creaminess of the peanut butter with a slightly salty, faintly sweet palate.

To balance the dryness and saltiness of the cookie it would need something soft in the mouth and slightly sweet. Not as heavy as the Auslese, nor as thick as the upcoming Banyuls.

We turned to the Demi-Sec A. Margaine Premier Cru Champagne, and the combination was perfect. The demi-sec style offers a softer body for the champagne while also giving just a touch of sweetness. The balance of herbal notes with a light brie funk on the nose and touches of yeast and toast bread beside minerals give a range of flavors avoiding the cloying problem. This is an elegant, delicate, and balanced champagne.

The Margaine is a special champagne in that Arnuad Margaine fully produces this champagne himself. Grower’s champagne is a less common version of the wonderful drink, and one that offers a difference in quality from the more mass produced types that dominate the wine type. A grower’s champagne is simply one in which the person that makes the champagne has also grown his own grapes. Margaine does just that making less than 5000 cases a year.

The wonderful thing about this wine really is found in how widely it could be paired. I’d love to drink it with dim-sum, as suggested by Michael Skurnik, or with spicy thai food. Oh… yum.

Alongside the Do-Si-Dos the yeast of the champagne is highlighted in a pleasing way, while the wine makes the peanut butter of the cookie both smoother and creamier tasting. The wine also eases the crunch of the cookie just slightly in a way that makes it work better.

Samoas and Lustau Almacenista Oloroso Sherry

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The Samoas cookie from the Girl Scout combines a crisp cookie center covered in caramel, toasted coconut and touched with chocolate. So it offers a combination of chew with crunch, and some sweetness.There are also lightly buttery elements to be tasted here.

To pair, a dry, full flavored companion is found in Oloroso Sherry, a dry style sherry showing lots of nut, hints of caramel, and touches of rich fruit. The high alcohol content work against the sweetness of the coconut making it more balanced, while the cookie brings out more fruit notes in the sherry uncovering flavors of dried cherry and more raisin. So, while the cookie became less sweet, the wine turned more complex. A pleasing complement.

The truth is a lot of people I know don’t like coconut, and so this cookie comes as the least favorite for them. I don’t mind the fruit-seed but also am not much into sweet cookies. It was a nice moment to see how this wine and the cookie worked together. As Katherine, one who does not like coconut, put it, “the cookie became worth eating” without hiding the coconut altogether.

At this point in the evening the wine and cookie match up was going so well Katherine extended me the following compliment. Thank you! “I salute your ability to pair Girl Scout Cookies with wine. It’s an important life skill.” Katherine, there is no one better to work on such a project with.

Tagalong Peanut Butter Pattie with 2003 Domaine La Tour Vieille Banyuls

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The Tagalong is a cookie topped in creamy peanut butter and covered in chocolate. The flavors here are rich, full, and very buttery and creamy.

The Banyuls is a full bodied, full flavored dessert wine that showcases nut, caramel, dried herbal, and spice notes. The acidity here is medium high helping to balance the sweetness of the wine and the alcohol level at 15.5% gives just enough heat to counter the richness.

When paired with the peanut butter pattie the cookie becomes more creamy and buttery, while the wine becomes less sweet, and a hint cooler. The buttery-ness of the peanut butter works well here against the alcohol heat. The salt of the peanut butter too fights the sweetness of the wine so as to lessen such effects when drinking it, making both the cookie and the wine smoother.

The classic pairing for Banyuls is chocolate, and with this cookie I agree while adding a couple more demands alongside.

Thin Mints and Rihaku Nigori Sake Dreamy Clouds

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The big challenge of the night came in trying to pair Thin Mints. Mint and chocolate are a hard set to make work with a wine. The classic pairing for Thin Mints is, after all, coffee. But I was determined that a wine could be found, and realized that the fumy quality of sake, rice wine, resembles slightly the fumy nature of mint flavor, while the very slight sweetness of Nigori style sake would likely work with the sweetness of a cookie. All my friends were skeptical.

Thin Mints are as they sound, a thin cookie with a thin layer of mint dipped in chocolate. They do well being frozen and then eaten after an overnight in the cold state.

Nigori Sake is left slightly cloudy in comparison to other types of sake, which are, by contrast, filtered. Nigori holds some rice sediment still, which keeps a slight haze in the cup, and works to help generate what is thought of as the sweetest of sakes, though still only slightly sweet. Due to the rice and yeast used, the Rihaku sake is also quite fragrant with dried plum, hints of banana, and a rice tang.This style is also meant to be finished once the bottle is open as oxidation will quickly change the flavors. Rihaku Dreamy Clouds is a super clean, pleasant sake.

I’ll admit the sake and cookie were a surprising flavor combination. I hadn’t had Nigori sake in a while and after a steady stream of grape wine tastings up till this point it was a significant contrast. Still, once the sake and cookie were tasted together the combination worked. The sake made the mint even more palatable, also cutting the waxiness of the chocolate, while the cookie erased the banana elements of the sake.

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Thanks again to Katherine, James, and Cara for your enthusiasm and suggestions! Thanks too to Katherine for providing the cookies. :)

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Have a wine focus you’d like to see explored here through comics and write up? Please feel free to email me at lilyelainehawkwakawaka (at) gmail (dot) com . I enjoy the challenge, and hearing from you too!

Copyright 2012 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com

Considering Treatment of the Grape Pinot Blanc, and Tastings from 2009

It turns out Pinot Blanc veils it self in mystery. The grape presents in many cooler climate regions of the world; as a close cousin of Pinot Noir and Pinot Gris it shares their delicate skins and selective temperaments. But, the grape finds itself misnamed in many of its apparent homelands, being more commonly blended with other whites when showing itself on the label, or simply altogether tricked out of the bottle that boasts its name. In two of the regions we’ll examine below the legal requirements actually allow for a wine to be named Pinot Blanc without carrying any of the grape’s product at all.

When Pinot Blanc does show itself though, it is considered one of the most food friendly white wines due to its combination of healthy body and ripe acidity.

Pinot Blanc in Germany

Typically labelled “Weissburgunder” in Germany (though sometimes re-labeled Pinot Blanc when sold outside the German market), Pinot Blanc has been increasing in attractiveness in Germany over the last decade, and has become recently a well-respected grape there. It’s delicate qualities do well in the Northern Climate, where it is generally produced in a clean style with little oak influence, though more producers in Germany have been experimenting with some barrel aging.

The variety is produced in Germany as either a sweet, or dry style.

Becker Estate Pinot Blanc 2009, Pfalz Germany

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The Becker Estate drank as the most well-balanced, and simultaneously approachable plus interesting of the four wines mentioned here. Of the four it was the one I’d most want to stick with through a meal, or to continue drinking through an evening on its own. We have nice fresh minerals, developed fruit, hints of wood, and pleasing acidity, all showing through a lush bodied wine. This wine is more mineral, than fruit driven.

The Becker Estate is a nice example of the good quality dry white wines that Germany produces. This wine stands up to drinking alone, for those that enjoy Pinot Blanc, but has enough flavor and acidity to add to a meal as well. Would pair well with fish or poultry. I’d love to have this wine with sauteed white fish, and white asparagus.

Pinot Blanc in Alsace

In Alsace France, this grape is one of the primary plantings, and carries the body of a number of the area’s popular wines. Even so, it is not necessarily the most respected grape of the region, and tends to be used in blend with other whites, or presented as Pinot Blanc while blended with Auxerrois, a grape with lower acidity. In combination, the distinctiveness of Pinot Blanc is mellowed significantly by the fuller body, and flatter flavor of the Auxerrois.

When purchasing an Alsacian Pinot Blanc it is actually difficult to know what the precise grape selection happens to be because legally the designation “Pinot Blanc” on an Alsacian wine can contain some combination of actual Pinot Blanc, Auxerrois (the most common partner), Pinot Gris, and/or no-skin (therefore no color) Pinot Noir. It is even possible to purchase an Alsacian Pinot Blanc that in actuality is 100% Auxerrois. For a true Pinot Blanc from the area, the best bet is to look for a bottle labelled “Clevner.”

Still, the area is also known for producing what is considered a truly distinctive Alsacian Pinot Blanc, which shows a smokey floral quality that many love, and that some wine makers from other regions strive to emulate.

Gustave Lorentz Reserve Pinot Blanc 2009, Alsace France

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This wine had the lightest flavor of the three, and did not carry the smoke on the nose that many associate with an Alsacian style. However, the bouquet did offer interesting floral and mineral notes, that show as much lighter on the palate. In fact, the contrast between the nose and palate was a bit of a surprise to me. I’d describe the Lorentz as a very approachable wine that shows some interesting complexity, but even so wants to be had with food. The focus on this wine is good value, rather than being a stand alone.

It is pleasantly mouth watering, and would drink well along side lightly flavored scallops, a seafood risotto with touches of citrus, or other white seafoods.

Pinot Blanc in the United States

Interestingly, the history of this grape in North America runs confused and still not entirely clarified. Pinot Blanc took hold in California as what was considered an alternative white varietal to the already popular Chardonnay. Some producers even choose to make their Pinot Blanc wines remarkably similar to what is considered a California-style Chardonnay, that is, strongly oaked and buttery. In the 1980′s, however, examinations of the Pinot Blanc root stalk grown at the UC Davis experimental vineyards were done by French botanist, Dr. Pierre Galet. He found that what the university had certified as Pinot Blanc was actually a different French varietal, namely Melon de Bourgogne. The result of the university’s error was that numerous viticulturists all over the state of California were actually growing Melon vines under the Pinot Blanc name.

Oregon suffered the same fate as its southerly sibling, at least initially. David Lett of Eyrie Vineyards had brought vines from UC Davis north to the Willamette Valley in the 1960s, instigating the start of the Oregon wine industry. But he arrived with some mis-labeled vines as well. and planted vineyards of Pinot Blanc only to discover them to be another grape type entirely. Interestingly, Lett’s claim was that his vines were not originally Melon de Bourgogne, but instead actually misnamed Chardonnay.

The two states have dealt with the mixed-up history quite differently.

Oregon wine laws demand that bottles labeled Pinot Blanc must contain certified (correctly) juice from the grape the name implies. So, wine makers in Oregon really do make Pinot Blanc wine from actual Pinot Blanc grapes, and those that arrived with mis-labeled vines have corrected the error either by replanting what they’d rather grow, or simply correctly renaming what they continue to grow.

California, on the other hand, has decided that the agricultural history of the state makes its own demands. Legally, wine labeled “Pinot Blanc” in the state of California can be made with any of the grape types that have been historically understood as Pinot Blanc in that state. That is, if a vineyard planted what was actually Melon de Bourgogne, believing it originally to have been Pinot Blanc, then wine made with Melon can still be labeled Pinot Blanc. However, to confuse matters further, it is also legally allowed for these wines to be labeled Melon now that the error is known. Most wineries choose to retain the Pinot Blanc name for their bottlings, however, rather than use the botanically correct Melon reference.

Interestingly, some wineries in California, particularly in the Carneros area, have established newer plantings of what has been correctly certified as Pinot Blanc vines. Trying to determine which wines from the state are made from Melon but labeled Pinot Blanc, and which really are made from the grapes of the correct designation is a challenge, however. Most winery websites don’t clarify the issue, and the bottles don’t either since the law simply doesn’t demand such certainties.

Of the four wines tasted, the Robert Foley, and the Eyrie were the most challenging in that they both offered fascinating, but also slightly strange characteristics. To be clear, I’ve never minded a challenge when it comes to wine, so I describe them as such as in no way slighting. For those that want simply approachable wines, however, you will not find them here.

Robert Foley Pinot Blanc 2009, Napa California USA

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A fan of Alsacian wine, Robert Foley describes his Pinot Blanc as an attempt to emulate the best of that region’s Pinot Blanc varietals. The style shows itself here, as his rendition certainly carries the strong floral wine for which a good quality Alsacian Pinot Blanc is known. He does well too at offering good quality.

To the American palate Foley’s style comes as a surprise showing an almost strange mix of evergreen, fragrant white flowers, alcohol-heat, and moderate acidity. That said, I found his wine thoroughly intriguing as I kept putting my nose back in the glass to take in the mix of qualities I found there.

Foley keeps this juice in stainless steel, with no oak influence or malolactic fermentation, in order to keep his wine clean and focused on what the grapes themselves have to offer. As a result, there is pleasant fruit here with white peach, and light meyer lemon plus lime coming together with jasmine on both the nose and palate. I mention hints of clove in the comic not to reference oak indicators, but instead to capture the kind of rich spice-heat that hovers about this wine. The wine deserves to be chilled, as the combination of flavors holds together best when served cooler.

The Robert Foley Pinot Blanc would pair well with fish, or light pasta with fresh ingredients.

** As mentioned above, California winemakers are not obligated to distinguish their Pinot Blanc as genuine PB or Melon. As a result, it can be hard to know for sure which grape you find in the bottle, as either grape can be named the same. In this case I have as of yet not been able to find definitive information, but am hoping to hear back from the wine maker via email. I’d love to hear in comments or email if anyone else has further information on the matter, and I’ll be sure to fix a post-edit when the info is confirmed. Pinot Blanc is one of those grapes that is readily mistaken for a couple of other white wines and so it is hard to make a commitment here based simply on having tasted it. That said, the flavors and structure on this wine were consistent with other actual-Pinot Blanc varietals I’ve tasted either here, or previously.

Eyrie Vineyards Pinot Blanc 2009, Willamette Oregon USA

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The Eyrie Pinot Blanc is a true varietal. Jason Lett, the president and wine maker of the label chooses to rest the juice on lees, adding body to the wine, and to allow malolactic fermentation as well, bringing a buttery smoothness to the final drink.

The Eyrie clones originate from the Alsace region, and this wine is produced as a limited bottling, adding to the treasure of tasting it. It is also readily considered unusual when compared to its Willamette counterparts in that the Eyrie presents with richer, creamier texture.

The grapes offer a rich, savory, dried herbal quality to complement the melon and citrus notes. The acidity is lower, but the alcohol higher compared to either the Becker, or Lorentz offerings, as a result the Eyrie leaves more of a sense of heat in the mouth.

The Eyrie would pair well with an avocado-citrus offering such as Avocado-Ahdi, and buttered scallops. This is also the perfect picnic wine.

What I really want with this though? Dungeness Crab. Amen.

This wine is so much Oregon sea coast and forest to me. It tastes like fog, with fresh sea air, the forest surrounding you, and your best friend there on a picnic. For those of you familiar with the area, you’d drink this where Ecola State Park meets the Pacific. It’s beautiful there, and totally intriguing.

Cheers!

Copyright 2012 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com

Wine Review: Metternich Cuvee Riesling Sekt Trocken

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As the story goes, Riesling originated in Germany, and now serves as the country’s most produced, and well-known variety. As also discussed in regards to Chardonnay, Riesling is a grape considered to reflect the flavors of its terroir and climate growing conditions, and to adapt to various production styles as well. In Germany the grape is generally treated as a straight varietal, without blending alongside other grapes, and is produced without oak influence. German tradition also has it that Riesling is the preferred grape for the best quality German Sparkling wine, known as Sekt.

Furst von Metternich produces Riesling Sekt in three cuvees–trocken, or dry; extra trocken; and the brut vintage, which is bottle fermented in the methode traditionelle. The trocken, and extra trocken are made instead in methode charmat. As previously discussed, methode traditionelle includes a secondary fermentation in bottle. Methode charmat, on the other hand, places the secondary fermentation in large stainless steel vats with bottling occurring under high pressure after the bubble-making process is complete.

This particular Metternich cuvee offers a subtle nose of white flowers, and fruit, with scents of spiced apple compote, and hints of golden grass and wood. The flavors in the mouth are fuller with the fruit and floral bouquet continuing with layers of white grapefruit, and peach blended through. The acidity on this sparkling wine is low, leaving a soft fruit body, and only light yeast elements. This wine is certainly trocken (dry) but the reduced acids gives the sense of more fruit elements than in a wine with higher acidity, which in turn offer a sense of sweet flavors. In other words, I do agree with the dry rating, and acknowledge too that there are a number of elements here that give a sense of a sweeter flavor, without actually carrying more residual sugars.

This Metternich is an affordable alternative to more expensive sparkling wines. It’s softer body reflects a difference sometimes found in the charmat process–it demands less acidity in the original juice than fermentation in the bottle, allowing for a stronger sense of fruit to the glass. As mentioned in relation to the cava reviewed earlier this week, if you’re determined to drink bubbles regularly and want a slightly less expensive option, you can find one here.

I will enjoy this particular sparkling wine on occasion for just such reasons. I’ll admit the sense of wood (not oak, just wood) mixed in with the fruit, and it showing lighter structure (less acid) means I am not always in the mood for these particular bubbles. Still, this wine offers an interesting insight into the possibilities of German riesling.

Wines of the Rheingau are generally considered to have excellent structure, and power. This particular rendition shows less acidity than is typical for still wine examples of the region, and a softer body than might otherwise be expected.

Copyright 2011 all rights reserved. When sharing or forwarding, please attribute to WakawakaWineReviews.com