WILD-ly practical wine recommendations & advice

Archive for July, 2010

WILD for Riesling Week!

That’s right it’s RIESLING WEEK!!!!!

This week (through the weekend), top restaurants and retailers around the country will be offering a special selection of world class European Rieslings.  Drink some this weekend!  You can find more details here: http://www.destinationriesling.com/week

I’m jazzed about this celebration of nectar; if I had to pick a favorite grape variety…. It would be Riesling.

What I like about Riesling is the broad range of aromas and flavors that can be produced from this grape –  simultaneously lemon and citrus, peaches and apricot and minerality reminiscent of wet stone (in a good way!) with a crisp,  palate cleansing finish.

Oh, and the many faces of Riesling…

POINT OF INTEREST>>>Riesling is the grape variety of Germany.  The different levels of sweetness will be described with some crazy German words on wine labels such as:

Trocken (dry- that would be NOT sweet)

Halbtrocken (slightly sweet)

Spatlese (literally “late harvest” this is slightly sweet)

Auslese (this is sweet )

Trockenauselese (sweeter still)

Beerentrockenauslese (sugar coma – have a syringe of insulin at hand when you drink this)

One of my favorite Rieslings represents a collision of old world and new world.  The famous German winemaker, Ernst Loosen has partnered with Chateau St. Michelle in Washington State to create a great domestic Riesling in the Germanic style – outstanding.   It’s called Eroica (NOT erotic, despite the sexy label – get your head out of the gutter).  It’s named for Beethoven’s Third symphony.

Chateau St Michelle Eroica Riesling 2008

This wine has a hint of sweetness and is full of peach, orange and lime aromas and flavors along with the traditional minerality and crisp, clean acidity associated with German Riesling.  An excellent pair for seafood as well as Asian food and Indian curries.  This wine is priced at $19-21 a bottle.

But fear not, if you’re looking to spend less, you can pick up Dr. Loosen’s German Riesling for $10 a bottle.  It’s simply called Dr. Loosen Riesling and it’s from Mosel, Germany.  It will be slightly sweeter than Eroica, but a good representation of Riesling.

Enjoy and GO WILD


WILD for a summer dinner party!

A friend who recently shared a story of a wine experience inspires this post.

Story is … she was going to a friend’s home for dinner and wanted to bring a bottle of wine.  At the wine store, amidst all of the colorful wine labels and unpronounceable grape varieties, her mind was reeling…white? red? what’s for dinner? That’s when she decided to bring cookies instead!

So, here I give you a reliable, go-to wine that you can bring to any dinner party and it will not only have a place, it will not disappoint.  It’s particularly nice during the summer- chilled with chicken and seafood and it’ a great pairing for a summer salad.

It is Pouilly-Fuissé.   Don’t be afraid of the name.  It’s just a fancy French way of saying it’s Chardonnay – a crisp, lightly oaked, refreshing Chardonnay. BTW pronounced “poo-ēy foo-sāy”.

POINT OF INTEREST>>> Pouilly and Fuisse are simply neighboring towns in the Burgundy region of France. In these towns there are hundreds of grape growers with very small plots of land.  They sell their grapes to the local grape broker (negociant) who then makes wine under the name of the towns.  A couple of famous brokers are Louis Latour and Louis Jadot.  Their labels look like this:

And, about the wine… this Chardonnay will generally be aged for at least a year in oak barrels before it’s bottled.  This gives the wine a smoothness and touch of richness without being too creamy or heavy.  The aromas and flavors are of lemon, green apple, melon with a hint of herbs and minerality.  The finish is long, clean and silky.

For this wine you can expect to spend $15-20 a bottle at retail- online you’ll pay less.  If you want to try before you buy… have it by the glass or bottle at a restaurant –it will be on the wine list of restaurants that pay attention to that part of the meal – particularly a seafood restaurant.

Enjoy and GO WILD!

W.I.L.D. for dessert!

Hurray for dessert!  Let’s face it, when you think of dessert, you’re thinking… chocolate cake or cheesecake with raspberry sauce …or pecan pie…or chocolate ice cream with caramel drippin’s.   I admit that’s all good stuff but here, I  offer you all of these great favors in liquid form (and at only 150 calories /3.5oz glass)….Tawny Port…really!

A little background on port…Port gets its name from Oporto, Portugal, where English merchants have shipped this wine for over 300 years.  Long story short… England boycotted France for a while so they looked to Portugal for wine; they added brandy to the wine to stabilize it for the voyage back to England and…viola!   Port was born – necessity is indeed the mother of invention.  Go Brits!  That also explains why you so often see British names on Port (Grahams, Croft, Taylor Fladgate, Cockburn) rather than Portuguese names.

Port is different than your everyday table wine in that it is

  1. Higher in alcohol (18%) compared to 13% alcohol for your average table wine
  2. Sweet
  3. Full bodied
  4. A blend wines from different years (vintages)

“Tawny” means the wine has been aged in oak for an average of years that is designated on the label – 10, 20, 30, 40 years.   It is  (not surprisingly) tawny in color and its  flavors of nuts, caramelized figs, dates, prunes, caramel, chocolate and more  evolve and become more complex as it ages.

And… here’s a good one  –

Taylor Fladgate 10yr Tawny Port

This wine is sexy… it has pronounced aromas of almonds, pecan, praline, caramel and cocoa. On the palate its rich with flavors of raisins, dried plums, dried cherries and fig.  On top of that, the texture is luxurious, I’m talkin’ eyes-rollin’-to-the-back-of-your-head good!

Expect to pay $23-25 for this wine, but don’t feel like you need to finish it in a couple of days – it’ll keep for several months (corked well) after you open it.   And, this is well worth it –  tastes older than 10 years.

Drink it alone or with caramel apples or apple pie, dried fruit, caramelized almonds or pecans, dark chocolate, cheesecake, tiramisu, pumpkin or pecan pie.  Oh yummy!

Enjoy and GO WILD

W.I.L.D with Pinot Envy!

I have Pinot Envy.  There, I’ve put it in writing!

Pinot Noir – love it – probably because good Pinot Noir is a true accomplishment.  And, if you’ve got one, I want to try it!

It’s the high-maintenance diva of grapes.  So temperamental – it likes a climate that’s not too hot, but not too cold and takes its own sweet time to ripen.  It’s the Marlon Brando of grapes – notorious for being difficult to work with but, when the performance is good, it’s really good.

Likewise, when the grape grower and winemaker get it right – it’s a thing of beauty.

  • POINT OF INTEREST>>> While the movie, Sideways, created a Pinot Noir craze in the United States, the classic home of Pinot Noir is Burgundy, France.  In medieval France, monasteries and monks played an important role in developing the vineyards and the reputation for great Pinot Noir in Burgundy– praise Jesus, drink some Pinot!

I have MANY favorite Pinot Noirs from around the world – in time, I’ll write about each of them.

I was drinking this wine over the past weekend and was reminded why it has come to be one of my favorite Pinot Noirs from California. You can get this wine online or at retail for around $15- 17 a bottle and it has some really nice complexity that you wouldn’t expect at this price – drinks more like a $25-30 Pinot Noir.

DeLoach Russian River Valley Pinot Noir, 2007

This ruby colored wine has ripe red fruit aromas of strawberry and raspberry as well as hints of cinnamon, licorice, clove and cedar.  The flavors of dark cherries are mixed with more complex flavors of truffle, chocolate, baking spices and toast.  The tannins are soft and smooth and the finish lingers nicely.

This is a great wine to drink on its own or with anything on the BBQ.

Interestingly, Dan Aykroyd (of Saturday Night Live and Ghostbusters fame) teamed up with this vineyard to produce his own private label Cabernet Sauvignon and Chardonnay called “Dan Aykroyd Discover Series”.  Go Figure!

Enjoy and GO WILD!

W.I.L.D for Spain!

Hey sports & wine fans!  The winners in Spain aren’t limited to the soccer field –  I’m talking about the wines.

Lots of good ones  – Rioja (red & white), Tempranillo, Priorat, Albariño, Cava, Ribera del Duero, some great new boutique blends and some traditional favorites… and don’ t get me started on Sherry.  Yes, Sherry is a good thing.  More on all of these in later posts.   Makes my head spin and my mouth water!

For today, my Spanish pick is


  • POINT OF INTEREST>>> Garnacha is the Spanish synonym for Grenache.  It grows all over southern France and  is the 2nd most planted red grape in Spain (after Tempranillo).  It  adds fruit, body & softness to harsher, edgy grapes like Tempranillo (in Rioja and Priorat blends) and Syrah (in Rhône blends like  Chateauneuf du Pape ) .

I give you 2 picks today…  for 2 important reasons:

1. They are both smooth and easy to drink  – like Pinot Noir, garnacha has a rustic quality and softer tannins than most red wines,  and

2. They are both priced nice enough to be the base of your red sangria!  (lots of good red sangria recipes on the web, if you need help, leave a comment and I’ll steer you in the right direction)

Las Rocas de San Alejandro Garnacha, 2007

Las rocas means, “the rocks” -the grapes that make this wine grow in arid, rocky soil at high altitude in Calatayud, Spain (an important center of cork production!).

It has a deep ruby color with aromas and flavors of black cherries and raspberries with hints of cinnamon and pepper and a touch of oak.  It has a medium weight in the mouth and a lingering finish.  You can find this at retail or online from $9-11 a bottle

There is also an “old vine” version of this wine that will cost you a couple more bucks.  The wine is made only from the grape juice from vines that are 70-100 years old.  Like humans, the vines are less ferile with age, so they produce fewer grapes, but what they produce is concentrated and OUTSTANDING!!! This is proof of improving with age!  You can get the old vine version of this wine for $16-19 a bottle.  This version I wouldn’t recommend for your sangria.

Ahhh, but there’s another  Spanish garnacha that’s the best of both worlds…

Garnacha de FUEGO Old vines, 2009

This wine is also from the high altitude in Calatayud, Spain AND also made with from those old vines.  So, it’s got some great concentration of aromas and flavors.

Just like the old vine Las Rocas, it has a rich ruby color, aromas and flavors of black berries, plums, cooking spices and licorice and a hint of pepper.  But this beauty can be fetched for $9-10 a bottle (easily $5-8 less than the old vine Las Rocas).  So if you’re looking for a bargin, this is you pick!   You’ll love it alone or in your sangria!

Enjoy and GO W.I.L.D!

W.I.L.D by the case – part 2!

Not only did South Africa host a fantastic world cup, but she is also in the midst of a winemaking renaissance that began in the 1990s.  With such high quality and wallet-friendly prices…this value is off the hook!

In my last post, I shared with you a red South African wine worth buying by the case… today, I give you the white wine counterpart.   This wine comes highly rated and recommended by wine critics and me! Here it is:

MAN Vintners Chenin Blanc, Coastal Region, South Africa, 2009

This wine is 100% Chenin Blanc.

  • POINT OF INTEREST>>> Chenin Blanc is the classic white grape of the Loire Valley, France.  It’s also jack-of-all-grapes and can produce a range of wines from aromatic and bone dry to some of the world’s most sought-after age-worthy sweet wines. In South Africa, Chenin Blanc is also called “Steen”.

This is a lemon-y colored, dry white wine.  The tropical aromas are of pineapple, coconut and honeydew melon.  The flavors are a bold, tangy lemon, green apple and pineapple.  This is a light to medium bodied wine with a crisp, palate cleansing finish – drink it chilled!

For eats… goes well with poultry, fish, salads or all by itself on a hot summer afternoon.

Snatch it up online or at retail from $7-9 a bottle.

BTW: If you have a hard time finding these wines, shoot me an email or leave a comment and I’ll tell you where to find it.

Next… a Spanish wine in honor of Spain’s World Cup win!

Until then… enjoy and GO WILD!

WILD by the case- part 1

From time to time I’ll give you suggestions on wines that are very good and offered at such a palatable price point, they’re worth buying by the case for everyday drinking.  These are wines that are ready to drink and enjoyable by wine lovers of any level of wine sophistication – newbie to geek.

Today I’ll share with you the red wine that I’m buying by the case.  In my next post I’ll give you a white wine case-buy suggestion.

If you are a fan of Syrah/Shiraz- based wines, you’ll love this charmer that you can get online or at retail from $8-10 a bottle.  It’s been highly rated and recommended by wine critics.  In fact, it’s one of the wines I served last night at an art show opening and was the crowd favorite.  Here it is:

Boekenhoutskloof The Wolftrap, South Africa, 2009  

This wine is a blend of 65% Syrah, 32% Mourvèdre and 3% Viognier

  • POINT OF INTEREST>>> these grape varieties are the traditional grape varieties grown in the Northern Rhone Valley in France.  Syrah and Mourvèdre are black grapes, while Viognier is a white grape.  The black grapes contribute the dark color, dark fruit character and spice, while the white, Viognier, adds body and flowery aromas to the blend. It’s good to see the black and white grapes working well together in this product of South Africa!

This wine has a deep ruby color, is bold and rich, and remarkably smooth. An easy drinker!  It’s loaded with aromas and flavors of black berries and black cherries, violet, black pepper, tobacco, licorice and bacon.  Yes, BACON!  Yummy 🙂

Needless to say, it goes well with anything from simple grilled hotdogs and burgers to steaks and lamb.

Check back for a white wine to buy by the case.

Also, since I’ve sorted out how to include images in this blog, moving forward, I’ll add the wine label of recommended wines in the post so that if you go looking for the wine, you know what to look for.

Enjoy and GO WILD!