Tag Archives: Wine education

¡Mucho Gusto! Get to know #Riesling

3 Oct

One of my favorite wine-tasting-gone-wrong stories happened a year after starting my blog when I was invited to join a group of women bloggers on a day of vino tasting in the Santa Ynez Valley.

In the tasting room of a winery whose name I won’t mention, the gentleman pouring our wine opened a bottle of Riesling and said, “You girls will love this one because it’s sweet. All Rieslings taste sweet.” True story.

Of course, not all “girls” love sweet wine, and certainly not all Rieslings are sweet. At the risk of making waves in this group I was just getting to know, I decided to very diplomatically note that some Rieslings are in fact dry.

You can guess where that led. Annoyed that I had corrected him, in a condescending tone he argued that ALL Rieslings ARE INDEED sweet. I decided not to ruin the convivial mood and dropped the matter. To prepare you in case you find yourself at the same winery with the same twit pouring your wine, it’s my pleasure–no, it’s my duty–to present the 411 on Riesling.

Loosens

HOLA, ME LLAMO: Riesling (pronounced REES-ling, not REEZ-ling)

MY ROOTS: According to the Oxford Companion to Wine, the earliest known mention of Riesling was found in Germany’s Rheingau region on an invoice dating back to 1435. The Riesling grape is believed to have originated in Germany, and DNA testing shows that it is an offspring of the grape Gouais Blanc. Noteworthy Riesling is produced in Germany, Austria and  in France’s Alsace region. Riesling  also is made in New World countries including Canada, Australia’s Clare Valley, and in the states of Oregon, Washington, California, and New York’s Finger Lakes region. Riesling vines have hard, resilient wood, which allows them to thrive in cold climates such as New York, Canada and Germany.

ALL ABOUT ME:  Riesling is a white wine that can be made in a variety of styles, from bone dry to sweet. The classic aromatic profile is a heady mix of lychee, white florals, citrus, white peaches and a distinctive petrol or kerosene smell in older wines. Rieslings have low to medium alcohol, rarely exceeding 12.5 percent ABV. This is a wine with a crisp acidity. Cool-weather Rieslings are especially zingy, and in Germany and Canada, some grapes are allowed to freeze on the vine to produce a beautifully sweet Icewine. The sweetness of German Rieslings is ranked according to a classification system that ranges from Kabinett (dry) to Trockenbeerenauslese (super-sweet). In France’s Alsace region, grapes may be harvested late (Vendage Tardive on the label), producing a rich, honeyed wine. Sometimes, but not always, American Rieslings will have “Dry Riesling” on the label if it’s, well, dry. When in doubt, ask your wine merchant or server to be sure.

FOODS I LOVE: Riesling is a versatile wine that pairs with all kinds of foods. Try a sweet or off-dry Riesling with spicy Mexican or Thai food to cool the burn. Rieslings go well with charcuterie plates, roasted duck and mildly salted cheeses. It also works with crab, shrimp or lobster. And Riesling holds the distinction of being one of the few wines that pairs nicely with eggs.

DO TRY THIS AT HOME: Riesling can cost anywhere from $16 to $60 a bottle. See last week’s post for four Finger Lakes Rieslings you may want to try. For Old World Rieslings, you can’t go wrong with Germany’s Dr. Loosen from the Mosel region. And from France’s Alsace region, I enjoyed the 2012 Hubert Meyer Riesling.

What are some of your favorite Rieslings? Don’t be shy–let me hear from you. Enjoy the weekend and as always, ¡Salud!

¡Mucho Gusto! Get to know #SauvBlanc

16 May

Feliz Friday everyone ! Today is World Sauvignon Blanc Day, and I’m re-blogging this post from my ¡Mucho Gusto! series in honor of the occasion. Raise a glass of #SauvBlanc today!

For those of you who don’t speak Spanish, mucho gusto is what you say when you first meet someone. It’s like “nice to meet you,” but it would translate more directly as “with great pleasure.”

Gusto has many meanings, including “taste” and “flavor,” so consider ¡Mucho Gusto! a delectable play on words and a way to familiarize yourself with wine. So here we go…

Intipalka Sauvignon Blanc is made by Santiago Queirolo, one of Peru's longest-standing wineries.

Intipalka Sauvignon Blanc is made by Santiago Queirolo, one of Peru’s longest-standing wineries.

HOLA, ME LLAMO: Sauvignon Blanc is a white wine.

MY ROOTS: Sauvignon Blanc was born in France’s Bordeaux region. A bit of trivia – the grape variety hooked up with Cabernet Franc sometime in the 1700s and the result was Cabernet Sauvignon. Today, Sauvignon Blanc continues to thrive in Bordeaux. Because French wines are geographically labeled and not named for the actual grape, “Sancerre” and “Pouilly-Fumé” are 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc wines. Sauvignon Blanc was planted in other countries including New Zealand, the U.S. (California), Chile, Australia and Italy. Robert Mondavi coined the name Fumé Blanc, so if you see this on the grocery store shelf, it’s Sauvignon Blanc.

ALL ABOUT ME: Sauvignon Blanc is a dry wine made from an aromatic grape, hence its distinctive aroma. You may get nectarines, white peach, grapefruit, grass and herbs, gooseberries, and believe it or not, kitty pee. French Sauvignon Blanc may also display a flinty, gravelly minerality. Most Sauvignon Blanc is stainless-steel fermented, so you won’t get the woodsy, oaky notes you’d find in Chardonnay. It’s also known for its refreshing, crisp acidity.

FOODS I LOVE: You can’t go wrong with Sauvignon Blanc and seafood. The wine’s crispness complements the buttery texture of white fish and scallops. I’ve had it with oysters and it’s to-die-for amazing. Sauvignon Blanc is the ideal wine for vegetarian dishes. This is a great wine for salads, since the herb notes of the wine will match the crisp greens in the salad and the acidity matches vinaigrette dressing. For some Latin flair, pair Sauvingon Blanc with guacamole (the acidity of the wine “cuts” the creaminess of the guac) and spicy dishes like enchiladas and chile relleno. I love Sauvignon Blanc with Peruvian arroz con pollo (chicken in a cilantro sauce).

DO TRY THIS AT HOME: The beauty of Sauvignon Blanc is that you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy it. You can get a good bottle for $10 – $20. Of course, you can pay upwards of $150 for a classified Bordeaux blend. Some well-regarded labels include: Cloudy Bay, Kim Crawford and Matua Valley from New Zealand; Laville Haut-Brion, Alphonse Mellot and Pascal Jolivet from France; St. Supéry, Kunde and Matanzas Creek from California; Montes, Concha y Toro and Viña Leyda from Chile.

So here’s wishing you ¡Mucho Gusto! as you get to know Sauvignon Blanc. Until next time…

¡Salud!

 

 

#CesarChavez and the fruit of the vine

27 Mar

Chicos y chicas, Monday is Cesar Chavez Day, and in honor of his birthday on March 31, I’m re-blogging a post about the United Farm Workers, the labor union he founded. By the way, you can catch the new Cesar Chavez movie, in theaters this weekend! And no, I’m not getting paid to promote the film (de nada, Pantelion Films). Here’s the trailer: 

 

…and here’s the blog post!

In one of my favorite scenes from the movie “Sideways,” Virginia Madsen’s character waxes rhapsodic about wine. Among the many things wine evokes for her are thoughts of the people who picked the grapes.

Image courtesy of Work Permit via Wikimedia Commons

Image courtesy of Work Permit via Wikimedia Commons

 

United Farm Workers (UFW), the labor union founded by Cesar Chavez in 1962, celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2012.

It would be disingenuous of me not to mention that the topic of labor unions is a touchy issue for some gente. Regardless of where you stand, we’re all rooted in the same vast vineyard of humanity, and this post is presented in the spirit of learning about one chapter in the history of a movement that has had an impact on the wine industry.

One historical point that many wine lovers may not be aware of is that Cesar Chavez himself was a fan of red wine. Perhaps even less known is that the UFW made its own wine six years ago to commemorate what would have been their founder’s 81st birthday. Black Eagle Wines takes its name from the stylized bird on the UFW’s logo.

Image courtesy of UFW.

Image courtesy of UFW.

Although the wine is no longer available for purchase, the union has a limited reserve that it continues to pour at its banquets and special events. A Sauvignon Blanc, a Merlot and a Cabernet Sauvignon were released under the label. At the time the wines hit the market, a spokesperson for the UFW noted that their target customers were young Latino professionals whose parents may have been farm workers.

Today, Cesar Chavez is credited by some not only for establishing better working conditions for farm laborers, but for starting a movement that would inspire hundreds of thousands of workers across various industries in the U.S. to seek better lives for themselves and their families.

So the next time you raise a toast, take a moment to think of everyone who played a role in producing the elixir in your glass, a liquid masterpiece that has been enjoyed for thousands of years by billions of people, our predecessors in the great vineyard of life. ¡Salud!

Happy #StPatricksDay – Green #wine?

17 Mar

Chicos y chicas, here’s an oldie but a goodie that’s still very relevant on St. Patrick’s Day. May the camino rise up  to meet you, and may el sol shine warm upon your face!

Poor St. Patrick. A lifetime of saintly deeds, and all he gets in return is an annual drinking holiday. Tonight, millions will don plastic leprechaun hats while bobbing in a virtual sea of green beer, all in the name of Ireland’s patron saint. Which brings us to the topic of green wine.  In the spirit of St. Patty’s Day, Señorita Vino proudly presents her official primer on ‘green’ wine.

“Green beer? Really?”

1. Vinho Verde

You guessed right, chicos y chicas. ‘Vinho Verde’ is Portuguese for ‘green wine.’ But this Portuguese wine is not green in color. ‘Green’ in this case is referring to youthfulness (see number 2 below), so the correct translation would be ‘young wine.’ Vinho Verde wines can be white, red or rosé. The key is to drink this wine soon after you buy it, because it’s not meant to be aged. A white Vinho Verde tends to be light (a lower alcohol content), crisp (high acidity) and wonderfully floral. Sip a glass as you’re painting your nails green.

2. Youthful Exhuberance

White wine gets darker in color as it ages. In a very young white wine, you may be able to detect a subtle greenish tinge. We’re not talking kelly green, but  a pale yellow with just a hint of greenness. The next time you’re drinking a white wine from an early vintage (2010, 2011), hold your glass against a white piece of paper and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Pretty cool, huh?

3. Organic Wine

This is a topic that stirs a lot of debate, so for the purposes of our ‘green’ theme, we’ll keep it simple. Generally speaking, organic wine in the U.S. is wine made from grapes grown according to organic standards established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. In other words, no chemical pesticides or fertilizers are used, among other organic farming practices. Rules about organic winemaking–or what happens in the winery once the grapes are harvested–vary from state to state. What matters is that drinking organic wine is an individual choice only you and your tastebuds can decide.  I have tasted both organic and non-organic wines, and have had excellent and so-so wines in each category.

4. Green foods and the wines that love them

What would a green wine discussion be without a pairing of wine with verde-colored victuals? For your St. Patty’s Day dining pleasure, here are some wines you can drink with your favorite emerald-toned comidas:

Green salad with avocados: Choose a lighter white wine such as a dry Riesling. The wine’s natural acidity will ‘cut’ the fat of the avocados.

Chile verde:  Here’s where a medium-bodied Zinfandel would complement the meat (and heat!) in this dish.

Green cupcakes: A sweet dessert wine would pair much better with green cupcakes than a pint o’ green Guiness. Just sayin’. Be  sure the wine is sweeter than the dessert. Go for a Moscato or a sparkling Brachetto.

5. If you really must go there…

I believe in freedom of choice, but I also believe that friends don’t let friends put green food coloring in white wine. Yes, that’s me editorializing. However you decide to celebrate St. Patrick’s Day, take this bit o’ wisdom to the pub with you on Saturday:

“Wine comes in at the mouth and love comes in at the eye; that’s all we shall know for truth…”

-William Butler Yeats, Irish playwright and poet

¡Mucho Gusto! Get to know Sauvignon Blanc

20 Feb

Happy almost-weekend, chicas y chicos! You may recall last month’s debut edition of ¡Mucho Gusto!, where I introduce you to a particular type of wine. For those of you who don’t speak Spanish, mucho gusto is what you say when you first meet someone. It’s like “nice to meet you,” but it would translate more directly as “with great pleasure.”

Gusto has many meanings, including “taste” and “flavor,” so consider ¡Mucho Gusto! a delectable play on words and a way to familiarize yourself with wine. So here we go…

Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, Chile, California and France.

Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand, Chile, California and France.

HOLA, ME LLAMO: Sauvignon Blanc is a white wine.

MY ROOTS: Sauvignon Blanc was born in France’s Bordeaux region. A bit of trivia – the grape variety hooked up with Cabernet Franc sometime in the 1700s and the result was Cabernet Sauvignon. Today, Sauvignon Blanc continues to thrive in Bordeaux. Because French wines are geographically labeled and not named for the actual grape, “Sancerre” and “Pouilly-Fumé” are 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc wines. Sauvignon Blanc was planted in other countries including New Zealand, the U.S. (California), Chile, Australia and Italy. Robert Mondavi coined the name Fumé Blanc, so if you see this on the grocery store shelf, it’s Sauvignon Blanc.

ALL ABOUT ME: Sauvignon Blanc is a dry wine made from an aromatic grape, hence its distinctive aroma. You may get nectarines, white peach, grapefruit, grass and herbs, gooseberries, and believe it or not, kitty pee. French Sauvignon Blanc may also display a flinty, gravelly minerality. Most Sauvignon Blanc is stainless-steel fermented, so you won’t get the woodsy, oaky notes you’d find in Chardonnay.  It’s also known for its refreshing, crisp acidity.

FOODS I LOVE: You can’t go wrong with Sauvignon Blanc and seafood. The wine’s crispness complements the buttery texture of white fish and scallops. I’ve had it with oysters and it’s to-die-for amazing. Sauvignon Blanc is the ideal wine for vegetarian dishes. This is a great wine for salads, since the herb notes of the wine will match the crisp greens in the salad and the acidity matches vinaigrette dressing. For some Latin flair, pair Sauvingon Blanc with guacamole (the acidity of the wine “cuts” the creaminess of the guac) and spicy dishes like enchiladas and chile relleno. I love Sauvignon Blanc with Peruvian arroz con pollo (chicken in a cilantro sauce).

DO TRY THIS AT HOME:  The beauty of Sauvignon Blanc is that you don’t have to break the bank to enjoy it. You can get a good bottle for $10 – $20. Of course, you can pay upwards of $150 for a classified Bordeaux blend. Some well-regarded labels include: Cloudy Bay, Kim Crawford and Matua Valley from New Zealand; Laville Haut-Brion, Alphonse Mellot and Pascal Jolivet from France; St. Supéry, Kunde and Matanzas Creek from California; Montes, Concha y Toro and Viña Leyda from Chile.

So here’s wishing you ¡Mucho Gusto! as you get to know Sauvignon Blanc. Until next time…

¡Salud!

 

#Vino 101: How to get the most out of a #wine tasting event

6 Feb

Remember when you learned to ride a bike? Once the training wheels came off, the only way to gain confidence and feel less wobbly was to practice, practice, practice.

It’s kind of like that when you’re learning about wine. Not the wobbly part, though. That usually happens when you’ve “practiced” a bit too much , but I digress. In recent years, I’ve made it a point to attend as many wine tasting events as possible. Where else could you choose from 70-plus wines to taste in just a few hours?

Photo credit: Joey Hernandez

Photo credit: Joey Hernandez

If you want to train your palate (minus training wheels and crash helmet), get thee to a tasting!  Here are six ways you can improve your wine knowledge at a tasting event. And if you read to the end, there’s a little incentive to get you started.

1. Ask questions. Wine reps at tasting events are generous with their knowledge, so fire away. Ask about food pairing suggestions, the region where the grapes were grown, whether you can find the wine at your favorite bar, and what the wine sells for.

2. Take notes. Keep a small notebook in you purse or pocket to jot down names, flavors, likes and dislikes. This will serve as your handbook the next time you’re buying wine at a store or restaurant.

Photo credit: Joey Hernandez

Photo credit: Joey Hernandez

3. Taste wines you’ve never tried before. At an Italian wine tasting last year,  I got to try a premium Sassicaia for the very first time. My palate will never be the same. If you keep an open mind and are willing to try something that’s totally unfamiliar, you may find a new favorite. Or, as in my Sassicaia epiphany, you can sample a high-end wine that may otherwise be out of your budget.

4. Discover your dislikes. The flip side of the above tip is discovering you don’t care for a particular varietal or wine style. If this happens, don’t just rush off to the next tasting station. Pay attention to what turned you off about the wine. Knowing what you don’t like saves you from buying a similar style of wine in the future.

Photo credit: Joey Hernandez

Photo credit: Joey Hernandez

5. Make full use of the dump bucket. It’s not rude to pour an unfinished serving into a bucket. That’s why they’re there. And the more you drink, the less you’ll be able to distinguish flavors and aromas. So pace yourself–and eat before you go. Tasting events are all about the wine, and often there’s little to no food.

6. Have a plan. You won’t be able to sample each and every wine at a large-scale tasting, so be strategic. Larger tasting events will provide a booklet listing all the wineries, and sometimes even the wines. Flip through it and target wineries you like, or ones you may not know. Or you may decide to focus on a particular varietal or region.

Photo credit: Joey Hernandez

Photo credit: Joey Hernandez

Want to put these tips into practice? If you’re in the area, check out the Family Winemakers of California tasting at the Pasadena Convention Center on Sunday, March 9 from 3:30 to 6 p.m. Buy your tickets online by March 8 and take advantage of an exclusive 10 percent discount for Señorita Vino readers. Full details and the discount code are on my Events page. ¡Salud!  

Vino 101: What the heck is terroir? #wine

30 Jan

You’ve probably heard the word “terroir” a few times during your wine tasting adventures. Maybe the person who was pouring raved about the terroir of a vineyard. Or maybe the dork at the next table was inflicting his long-suffering friends with yet another monologue about tasting the terroir of a certain wine.

Well, “terroir” is a controversial subject, even among wine experts. Simply stated, terroir gives  wine its sense of place. It’s like going to a party and spotting a chulo guy or hot muchacha who have–cliché alert–a certain je ne sais quoi. The cut of their clothes or the way they carry themselves are  little clues  that tell you the person may be from a different town, another state, or even another country.

Old World wines come from Europe and the Mediterranean.

And so it is with wine. Little clues like color, aroma, flavor characteristics and texture will tell you something about the origins of a particular vino. Terroir is the source of these clues.  

DSCN1678

To Spanish speakers, terroir may sound a lot like tierra, or dirt. That’s because our très chic French amigos originally coined the term, which comes from terre, the French word for earth or dirt. Soil was once given most of the credit for influencing a wine’s profile. Today, terroir can be defined as the combination of soil, climate, weather, topography (aspect, elevation, slope, proximity to bodies of water) and grape variety that define a particular vineyard.

Photo credit: Wines of British Columbia

Photo credit: Wines of British Columbia

But dónde está el controversy, you ask? Not everyone agrees on the extent to which terroir can be credited for giving wine a particular personality. Modern winemaking gives the winemaker a lot more tools to influence the taste and aromatic profile of wine.

For example, a winemaker in California can craft a Bordeaux blend wine that will display characteristics similar to a wine made in Bordeaux, France.  But California and France are–obviously–two very different places. How do they do it? Everything from how the grape vines are tended to the inclusion of oak and the type of yeast used for fermentation will influence the end product.

Photo courtesy of Liza Gershman Photography.

Photo courtesy of Liza Gershman Photography.

I could go on and on about terroir, but you have places to go, people to see and vino to drink. All you need to remember about terroir is that it plays a key role in producing wine that will have a unique identity depending on where the grapes were grown. Kind of like the attractive stranger at the party. He or she may share some traits with the locals, but it’s the edgy scarf, adorable accent or exotic dance moves that hook you. Oh là là!

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