Lenz Blanc De Noir 2008

Lenz Winery. Chalkboard art by Dan Krupin.

Lenz Winery. Chalkboard art by Dan Krupin.

As promised, I wanted to tell you about yet another amazing wine I tried in the North Fork.  I of course enjoyed several of their wines, but this was an event for me because, like the white Merlot at Sherwood House Vineyards, this was my first white Pinot Noir. And most of you know by now, that Pinot Noir is my all-time favorite variety. And that being my first trip to a large number of different wineries in one visit, I underestimated how much I was going to want to bring home. It adds up fast, so I was sparing overall, amassing about 2 cases from 8 wineries and only one or two of each favorite. This was a major failure on my part because most of these I would kill to drink again right now, though I’ve been able to locate a few in shops in New York City as mentioned with the Bedell first Crush and some of the Paumanok. And every single one I want to write about, and probably will! I was able to get hold of another bottle of this one from a co-worker when he visited the region and winery in May.

Seeing as how my father-in-law introduced me to my first love in the grape world, I was eager and waited to share this 2008 Blanc de Noir from Lenz Winery with him. We had an opportunity in June but never got around to it, so it stayed in my fridge for a month, so as not to risk spoiling it with any drastic temperature changes. This was an ordinary kitchen fridge, but I have plans to pick up a temperature-controlled wine refrigerator when I have a home with more room. I was nervous it would spoil, but fortunately, it did not. I chalk it up to it being a new refrigerator with reliable temperature control.

2008 Lenz Blanc De Noir

2008 Lenz Blanc De Noir

Anyway, I not only shared it last weekend with my father-in-law, but my wife, my dad and my sister-in-law. It was a hit. My wife had tried it at the winery with me in March but it was amazing all over again, for both of us. The color was a pale gold, similar to that of Champagne, for obvious reasons. (okay well if you don’t know, Pinot Noir is one of the three grapes and one of the two red grapes used in traditional Champagne.) It was nice and dry and made in the same style with the same methods as its European red counterparts, though lightly pressed and the skins removed before fermentation. This is not a bulk-made, blended sweet rosé unfortunately now associated with America due to white Zinfandel. So of course on the nose you had French oak and baking spice — I picked up some noticable cinammon — and white cherry. The palate echoed the nose, with more white, and red cherry. It had medium acidity, body, and finish. It had such a unique character, really like nothing I’ve had yet. An absolute prize of a wine and one of their top five most popular.  I will be back for more, you have my word.

We also picked up an amazing two-bottle wine tote in their shop, which included two plastic wine glasses and a corkscrew for the consummate picnicer. We use this on a regular basis – for outdoor concerts, camping, the beach and whatever occasion calls for it. It is padded on the inside and canvas on the outside. It doesn’t have any cooling elements but you can easily wrap those little freezer cooling bags around a white and slip it in to its compartment.

There is also a talented artist on the staff, Dan Krupin, who does custom chalkboard art for the winery, and also their friends at the Harvest Inn, where we stayed that weekend. I will be telling you about that great place, people, and the amazing time we had there soon.

In the meantime, visit the Lenz website or winery, and order some for yourself before I drink it all…

Lenz Winery
38355 New York 25  Peconic, NY 11958

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Fiesta de San Fermin – Barcelona Wine Bar

Barcelona Wine Bar & Restaurant

Barcelona Wine Bar & Restaurant

Wednesday night, my wife and I attended a special dinner at an amazing local wine bar and tapas restaurant, Barcelona. There are several locations, mostly in CT. And luckily I work just down the street from one of them. I have had company parties, romantic dinners with my wife, and casual get-togethers with co-workers there, and all were really enjoyable experiences. They often have live music with Spanish and South American origins, and other special occasions such as this one.  I unfortunately missed one of their many Rioja classes last month, but I will make it to one soon. They also have classes on cooking Gazpacho, cocktail mixology and more. So I was thrilled when I saw they were having a dinner party for the “Fiesta de San Fermin.” It is a week-long celebration in Navarra —  in Pamplona specifically —  that is famous for the ‘running of the bulls.’  Barcelona’s head wine buyer and director, Gretchen Thomas (who has quite an amazing resumé I must say,) put the event together and managed the wine tasting, while executive chef Gavin Blair manned the gigantic Paella Grande pan.  All in all there were about 35 guests, and we had fun mingling among fellow wine lovers and getting newly acquainted. They even had a mascot, “Antonio the Bull” making the rounds in costume. He is the bull (beso) on the label of the Beso de Vino – though the cajones were a little more understated on the label than this costume!  It was pretty amusing and I will stop there on that subject.

Paella Grande

Paella Grande

In addition to the Beso de Vino, we had a Cava from Penedès to start, followed by a nice Viura/Verdejo from Rueda, then a Catalunyan Garnacha Rosé, a Cabernet/Tempranillo/Syrah/Merlot blend from Costers del Segre, and a much-touted ‘Pasion de Bobal.’ Bobal is a local variety, often used for Valencian bulk wines, and fermented with spicy American oak to add complexity. But these Bobal are hand-harvested from up to 60 year-old vines, grown in vineyards at upwards of 300ft altitude and then macerated and fermented at low temperature in French oak. The result is a concentrated, overripe red fruit and spicy mix with grippy tannins. This and the afforementioned and excellent Beso de Vino old-vine Garnacha from Cariñena were my favorite. Old-vine Cariñena is one of my favorite Spanish wines already, and happily this one didn’t disappoint.  I’d say the Garnacha Rosé was also in my top picks, and I love the French counterparts from Provence as much. But they were all good. The staff here really know their wine, and the selections were all tops.  To be fair, the Cava was very nice too, though I don’t drink a lot of sparkling wine, as it goes right to my head. Usually a glass is all I need before moving on, no matter how good and expensive it may be. I did an amazing sparkling wine tasting tour on the North Fork I will of course write about, and by the end of it I felt like Charlie after too many fizzy lifting drinks at Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory. Besides, do you ever spit out sparkling wine? I never have.

Beso de Vino

Beso de Vino

Delicious tapas was passed around during the tasting portion prior to the seated paella dinner, including hanger steak, pickled peach salad, artichokes a la plancha (with garlic, lemon, and parsley) and ceviche and monkfish – though I don’t eat much seafood or any shellfish. They were very accomodating in that respect and made me a paella free of these ingredients. Blasphemy some purists may say, but hey, that’s my picky palate for you. On Sunday they are holding a pig roast, and we are brininging my in-laws for their first visit to Barcelona. Olé!

Sherwood House Vineyards, North Fork, Long Island

Sherwood House Vineyards, North Fork Long Island

Sherwood House Vineyards, North Fork Long Island

Yet another highlight of my trip to the North Fork was Sherwood House vineyards. It was the last of the vineyards we visited on the trip, just before we made for the Briermere Farm stand (amazing, amazing pies!) and then the ferry. They have a beautiful old wooden barn with a magnificent fireplace in the back of the lot (which at the time was filled with sounds of live jazz music for the North Fork ‘Jazz on the Vine’ festival) as well as a large room full of antiques in the main building, adjacent to the main tasting room. The main room is a nice mix of quaint and modern; barn-like in feel but with all the modern appointments, including a modern tasting bar and just outside, a large deck. On this particular day, there was a raw bar set up on the deck as well. It was a perfect day and we took in some of the jazz, sun, antiques and a tasting of several wines. They also have pads of tasting note paper, so I did my due diligence as a student and filled out a few. As a result, I am able to tell you about a few of them today.

The 2007 ‘Oregon Road’ Merlot poured a medium ruby, and had a slight rim variation. On the nose there was black fruit and spice. Notably this wine has the shortest fermentation time of their wines, at 12 months. On the palate was smoke, an earthiness I loved, and more black fruit. The body, tannins, and finish were all about a medium. I don’t usually love 100% Merlot, but this had a nice distinct flavor that pleased my palate.

We next tried the 2008 Double-Gold Merlot. This too had similar color and rim variation as the Oregon Road, as well as the smoke, spice, and black fruit present in the former. However, there was a little more ‘smoke’ in the nose and it had a slightly fuller body, tannins, and finish. Very balanced and pleasant, and obviously good enough to win a couple of medals.

My tasting notes

My tasting notes

Next up was a fantastic Cabernet Franc. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, this region is really where I discovered the full potential of Cabernet Franc all on its own, and they are doing great things on the North Fork with it. This 2008 vintage poured a medium ruby color, but on the nose there were fragrant baking spices, and a little bit of that floral and pepper aroma characteristic of the variety, and some cherry. The body, tannins and finish were all about a medium as would be expected in this true Chinon style wine. These are expensive at $40 and made in such small numbers they are each numbered on the bottle.

My favorite of all though was a white Merlot (also branded ‘Oregon Road’). It was a recent vintage, I believe a 2011, and my very first of this kind of wine. (Incidentally I have a white Pinot Noir from Lenz I will review this weekend once I’ve shared it with my father-in-law.) A pale straw color, it had distinct melon on the nose. On the palate, it was dry, with pear and more melon. Body, tannins and finish were light but overall it was refreshing and really delicious. This is one of those I wish I had bought more of. Oh well, I’ll just have to go back!

You can find almost all of these on their website.

The tasting Room is located at 1291 Main Road, Jamesport, NY 11947

Teruzi & Puthod Terre di Tufi Toscana IGT 2010

Teruzzi & Puthod Terre di Tufi 2010

Teruzzi & Puthod Terre di Tufi 2010

Here’s a rare treat, well at least so far on this blog… tonight I’m reviewing a white wine. What’s not so rare, is it’s an Italian wine… you know me, after all.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy white wine, despite being preferential to reds. As I consider myself a wine student in a lifelong class, I try and enjoy almost everything I drink and find what’s good about them in each and every case, and learn something new along the way. Not to mention, refresh myself on what I’ve already learned to cement it in this brain.  When I grabbed this one off the rack, due to the dark bottle, I didn’t immediately realize it was a white (something I could have picked up on had I simply looked at the back where it was clearly stated “Toscana Bianco!”) In my defense I was quickly browsing our selection for a nice glass to enjoy while doing some planting. I saw it was Italian, and that was the mood I was in. I’m in the mood for Italian wines pretty often though, especially from Tuscany.  As I opened it of course it dawned on me. It’s a very pleasant wine, and until now I had never had a white Super Tuscan.

From my education, I’m thinking there’s definitely Vernaccia in here, a classic white of this region, with its own DOCG, Vernaccia di San Gimignano.  This is the very same famed town from which I’ve had many quality reds and I believe is where the Strozzi family has been making their reds, for the royal family that includes relatives of the Mona Lisa herself, and who were the first employer of Macchiavelli. But you won’t find any Sangiovese here. Also in the area is a DOC for wines made from Vermentino, Colli di Luni. This region is just west of the Chianti Classico region.  As it is one of the very oldest winemaking sites in Italy, and Vernaccia di San Gimignano was designated the first DOC in 1966, you know you’re going to get quality in every glass. While this winemaker does make a 100% Vernaccia, this is a special house blend with some Malvasia, Chardonnay, and of course, Vermentino. At about $17, it’s a good deal, especially since the last few vintages have gotten near 90 points from Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast. It seems to be selling well, and selling out, with many retailers.

It is a deep straw color with a hint towards gold, and on the nose you have subtle vanilla oak which is from being aged and fermented in fine French barriques, as well as crisp mineral and exotic fruit aromas of pineapple. That I suspect is the Chardonnay speaking. On the palate, apple, citrus, spice, and some toast and cream flavors appear with a nice minerality to balance that all out. It lingers nicely, and acidity and body are firm and full but still feels light. Alcohol is a pleasant 13 percent. A perfect match to the Italian sausage I am preparing. I imagine with seafood and prosciutto it would pair beautifully as well. Italy never seems to let me down, and this is no exception. Thanks again, Italy! Keep them coming.

Wine Enthusiast 40-Bottle Modular Wine Rack

Wine Enthusiast 40-bottle modular wine rack

Product shot – full capacity

Last week I used a father’s day gift certificate to buy something I wanted on WineEnthusiast.com. While I was dying for one of those cool silent, temperature-controlled storage fridges, the fact is we are living in a small apartment, which is already maxed out on space and there just is no room. I will get one of those down the road. Besides, in my business I often have at least a case of wine at home at any one time, thanks to such nice employee discounts. Our current wine rack only holds 6 bottles, and we end up stacking them on our dining room table or atop our bar next to the fish tank. And lets be honest, it’s not very nice to show off all the great wine those poor fish can’t drink. I’m a caring person, and don’t want my fish to feel such envy. Also, it doesn’t really look right, my fine wine collection piled against the side of a fish tank. More storage was definitely needed. But as we are buying a house at the end of the year or so, I wanted something that would fit here for now, but also be flexible enough to use in a larger space in the future. Enter the Wine Enthusiast 40-bottle modular wine rack. I read about 100 of the reviews before purchase. Some people complained that it was difficult to assemble and line up all the pegs and beams properly, while some said it really was not that hard if you took your time and had some patience, and some skill. You can build multiple smaller racks, or one large one. What is also great is it holds larger Burgundy and Champagne bottles as well.

My results - currently 10 bottles

My results – currently 10 bottles

Not having the rubber mallet recommended when it showed up so soon, I took others’ advice and used a small hand towel and a normal hammer. With just a little bit of thought and planning, and making a few adjustments, I was able to put together the size I had space for now in about 1 hour. Sure, there were a few pieces I had to detach and re-set, but with the towel and the hammer, I was able to line up everything pretty easily and without marring the wood. I made sure to lay the two rows I was assembling on top of each other as I built it to see where pieces needed to be adjusted so they would line up as I connected them. I didn’t have any trouble with broken pegs, and they give you extra anyway. We only have room currently on the bar for 10 bottles so I made 2 rows of 5 for this space. But knowing that when I have a lot more space, I can stack it up 4 times higher, there really was no better option. I chose the mahogany finish, which was only $10 more. It was already on sale so the whole thing only cost me $89 plus $15 shipping due to weight. Knowing I have proper storage now, and flexibility later, is a great thing. Being the fourth of July, we will do some damage to this collection at our BBQ today, but I always know I have a place to re-stock my collection. Happy 4th to my American friends!

Caparzo Rosso Di Montalcino 2009

Caparzo Rosso di Montalcino 2009

Caparzo Rosso di Montalcino 2009

Right now, most sports fans are watching Italy vs. Spain in the Euro Cup. From a wine perspective, I love both Italian and Spanish wines, but I think I may just be obsessed with good Italian wines at the moment.  I’ve been impressed and satisfied with even the simplest table wines, and then I also have my favorites, Montepulciano D’Abruzzo, Nero D’Avola, Barbera D’Asti, and that’s just a few of my favorite reds. I almost forgot Primitivo – perhaps the original Zin –  and Super Tuscans… I’ve been reading a great book about Thomas Jefferson (called T.J. around this circle) and his love for wine. It explores his passion for wine; and his relationship with acquiring, growing, and keeping wine throughout his life are chronicled through letters. It is chock-full of fascinating correspondence, and memorable tales from Paris to Monticello fill the pages of conversation and history.

I decided to try a new Italian red with dinner recently. This one is a Rosso di Montalcino from 2009. In the same area of Tuscany as it’s famous big brother, Brunello di Montalcino (the longest barrel-aged red in Italy at 5 years), Rosso di Montalcino is a new regional DOC made to cover younger, fresher, and less aged wines of this style.  Thus it is also 100% Sangiovese. This new DOC is also often applied to Brunello that did not make the grade, but that doesn’t mean it’s bad. On the contrary, this Caparzo poured deep-ruby, and had a strong nose of wild black and red-berry fruit. The palate displayed firm structure and tannins, and powerful black fruit and wild berry flavors prevailed as well here. It delivers on all levels, and shows the potential of its longer-aged relatives. There was some oak notes from 2 years in barrel and a bit of earthiness, which is one thing I love in particular about Italian wines.

In fact tonight I am going out to a nice new Italian restaurant in the neighborhood to enjoy some delicious native cuisine  and wine — after the game, of course. Can I really vote for a country based on their food and wine as my bias?