Friday, March 25, 2011

Elizabeth Rose 2009 Rosé

Nothing says springtime like a refreshing glass of rosé. At a recent food and wine tasting at Cooking with Class, guests were spellbound by Elizabeth Rose 2009 Rosé. All eyes were riveted by the colorful elixir that gushed glassfuls of dark pink and magenta hues. And boy, did it deliver on the palate too, with taste buds shifting into high gear as the first sips went down.
Newcomers to this wine might mistake the gorgeous color and bold strawberry aromas as a sign of sweetness. Instead, this lip-smacking lovely finishes dry and crisp. Napa winemaker Kristi Koford uses grapes sourced from two certified organic vineyards in Yountville and Oakville to craft the Syrah-based Rhône-style blend. The cold soak and stainless steel fermentation yields a juicy sipper that bursts with fresh-tasting, ripe raspberry and strawberry fruit. Rosy to the end, it blossoms with warm spice and rhubarb tang on the finish.

And yes, there really is an Elizabeth Rose. The fetching label of this family-owned winery holds a story of tradition and pluck. A few years ago, this special rosé was created and named for the daughter of one of the winery founders to mark her 21st birthday. As told to us, that red-headed young lady hails from a long line of flame-haired beauties, one being her beloved great-grandmother after whom she was named. The youngster loved all things red and rosy. Flush with youthful imagination, she would often sign her name Elizabeth Rose. Her bemused dad later interpreted this as Elizabeth Rosé. So, with a birthday that marked the end of a childhood era as fanciful Elizabeth Rose and an official passage into adulthood, the wine was given the name Elizabeth Rose Rosé in honor of both youthful exuberance and strong family bonds. 

Do like they do at Bonded Winery 9 and pair this wine with barbecue and a host of warm weather fare such as lightly spiced salads, white meats, fish and appetizers. Or, take a tip from Elizabeth Rose and drink it all year round, especially with seasonal watermelon salad for total refreshment.

Claim your screw-capped bottle for about $12 at Cooking with Class in La Quinta, behind the big Walgreen's off 48th Avenue and Washington Street. Chances are good Chef Andie and I will share this springtime goodness at another Cooking with Class event but why wait?

Check out the April class schedule now posted online. A week from today on Friday, April 1st is next month's food and wine tasting. Sign up today or call 760.777.1161 to stake your place before this popular event sells out again.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Bodegas Borsao 2008 Tres Picos Garnacha

Tres Picos 2008 Garnacha hails from Campo de Borja. Campo de what? Borja, the Spanish name for Borgia, the infamous Italian Renaissance family of Spanish heritage whose scandals gave nobility a bad name.

Reds rule in Campo de Borja, and none rules mightier than Garnacha. The region, recognized as a D. O. (Denominación de Orígen) in 1980 lies within Zaragoza province, southeast of La Rioja. Although it is home to only 17 wineries, Campo de Borja Garnacha casts a long shadow to fans of this spicy varietal.

Bodegas Borsao 2008 Tres Picos is made in a modern style, with rich, mouth-filling texture and plush flavors of blackberry and dark cherry fruit. Herb and spice notes unfurl cloves, pepper and anise followed by leather and sweet pipe tobacco. Over and above its seductive aromatics, the wine's greatest reward is its food-friendliness. Try it with grilled sweet Italian sausage and a dab of Walla Walla onion whole-grain mustard.

Garnacha goes by Grenache in France and many parts of the New World. Italians know it as Cannonau, a word taken from Sardinian dialect, and the place where the grape probably originated. Although Garnacha is known for high-yielding vines and ripe, alcoholic wines, the grapes grown for Tres Picos have it tough. Harvested from old vines that struggle in poor soil along rugged edges of hillside terrain, the meager yield of two tons per acre produces concentrated wines, expressive of terroir and layered with flavor and nuance. 

If you're warming up to Spanish wine, look for the name of Spanish importer Jorge Ordoñez on the label. More often than not, an Ordoñez pick lands a winner of uncommon wine goodness and value over many price points. Find this beauty at Palm Desert's LA Wine Company and Dan's Wine Shop for less than $15 a bottle.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

The Closer: Smoking Loon 2008 Syrah

Thanks to all the Girlfriends who made last week's Wine Circle get-together such fun – with special thanks to Teri and ATEHO, her gorgeous place to shop for unique, tasteful gifts.
We closed out Spicy Reds with a quirky pick: Smoking Loon 2008 Syrah, a wine that weaves together the ripe berry fruit, pepper and spice that makes Syrah so seductive. I'd read about the wine on Tim Fish's blog for Wine Spectator in which Don Sebastiani, Jr., whose company produces Smoking Loon, made some strikingly candid remarks. Fish noted that his WS colleague James Laube gave the wine an 87 (which indicates a very good wine with "special qualities" in the Spectator's scoring system), leading Fish to ask what it takes to make a very good $8 bottle of wine.

So how does Sebastiani and Sons do it? In essence, they use a combination of science and shortcuts. The wine's color may get punched up by a tiny amount of the natural grape concentrate Mega Purple. How about some oak for toastiness, aging and tannin management? Smoking Loon gets the kiss of oak Syrah needs with oak staves rather than logging time in expensive, space-demanding barrels. OK, no surprises there but few winemakers are inclined to talk about those things, no less to a publication with the reach of Wine Spectator.

The science behind the Smoking Loon Syrah involves micro-oxygenation or "micro-ox," a technique that introduces small, controlled amounts of oxygen into the wine during fermentation or aging. Micro-ox can help soften tannins, weave together a wine's flavors or give winemakers more precise control over the wine's aging. You might liken it to using an aerator on a mega-scale.

Micro-ox has been around for a while. About five years after micro-ox was developed in 1991 by a scientist working with Tannat, an exceedingly tannic varietal, the European Commission allowed for its use in winemaking. You may remember it from the movie Mondovino (2004), in which influential globe-trotting enologist Michel Rolland suggests it to some winemaking clients. Today, micro-ox is used worldwide, from Bordeaux to Chile.

So that's how Smoking Loon was chosen as the closer. Beyond its sure-to-please flavors, it also fulfills an "interest quotient" for added instructional value worth sharing. Loon is tasty, varietally correct, inexpensive and locally available ($6.99 at Trader Joe's and even less at bigger box stores). It earned a respectable score – which carries weight whether we want to think so or not – and carried a good back-story. While my personal Syrah preferences lean to K Vintners, Rusack, Alban, Andrew Murray and Cayuse (if I can ever get my hands on it again), the TJ wine won out with a good story. Come to think of it, those other wines have some pretty remarkable stories too. Join us next time and we'll uncover some more.