Saturday, April 27, 2013

Beer with your burgers?

Wisconsin is a beer state, Milwaukee the BREWCITY, and Madison, definitely a beer town. Considering Spring is officially here, based on the fact that tonight was the first time we could grill and sit outside all evening without donning a sweater, the grill is fueled and fired. What to drink with grill fare you ask? A pre-barbecue trip to the liquor store to stock up on thirst quenchers and conversation lubricants will, naturally, end in the purchase of a six-pack showcasing the local, tastiest, or rarest new brew. I've been guilty as any other. Lately, however, my mind has been busy coming up with showstopper wines to bring to gatherings from here on out. I guess they call me the Wineguy for a reason. Rose is a natural fallback, but tonight I chose a different gem:

 2012 Pewsey Vale Dry Riesling, Eden Valley, South Australia.
Without much thinking at all, it fit seamlessly into my grand scheme of wine drinking, learning, educating, and enjoyment.

The nature of today's wine-press, ratings and advertising often leaves casual wine drinkers little room to think for themselves. My last post on Tempranillo-Moscato is a prime example. Apothic Wine's 'limited release' Rose is another, and Adam Carolla's 'Mangria' is the nail in my coffin. Attractive endcaps, eye-catching labels, disgustingly low prices and truth-streching shelf talkers pretty much place a bottle in your hand whether you like it or not (if you're not shopping for wine at a small retailer who has the time and willingness to help you choose a bottle suited to your needs). The rare wines, the real wines of the world, the ones with a story, and the ones with the most interesting flavors become all but inaccessible. I keep saying it over and over, but for a generation so keen on local and crafty food, we should not relegate our wine to any less of a playing field.

Riesling has gotten a lot of press and love the past few summers, thanks most to Mr. Paul Grieco of NYC and his whole 'Summer of Riesling' phenomenon. Considering the reputation (stateside) Riesling has garnered as a sweet and uninspiring wine, I'm humbled by the hype that Summer of Riesling has churned out, and I'm excited to see where it will go this year. I'm not surprised, however. Riesling kicks ass, plain and simple. Usually fresh upon release, it's often better with age. I've had bottles of Grand Cru German Riesling from the 1970's that have brought me close to tears. The ways that sugar, acid, and flavor jive blissfully with food can write new pages on wine pairing. It only makes sense that sommeliers push so hard for the public to respect this not-so-respected grape. Riesling is not only for wine-geeks.

The Pewsey Vale tonight was stunning. The color, a tinge of yellowish green in a chilled glass sitting on a seasoned deck. My nose was tickled with what felt like an endless flow of floral and herbal notes weaving themselves deep into my senses. Prickly at first, the acid kicked my taste buds into awareness. In a blind tasting I would have never called it a Riesling, but I've also little experience with such wines from Australia. Lemon and lime came to mind on the palate, but I really, honestly was thinking more about how darn great this wine tasted than anything else. There's a time and place for analyzing a wine in all of its parts and pieces, but a back porch is not one of them. Friends loved it, even the ones who said they don't like Riesling. Bam! If you can't find this wine at your local retailer, try and find something similar. If you can't find something similar, ask for help. If you can't find help, then pick something else and let me know how it turns out.

Cheers to Spring!

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Thursday, April 18, 2013


I saw something that boggled my mind today. Something so original, so unique, so cutting edge that it left me speechless. It was not a good feeling. It was very bad:



As a member of the 'Millenial' generation I feel, quite frankly, shat on by the most powerful people in the wine industry. I guarantee this wine, at a $6.99 retail, was not marketed to the Benz driving 40 somethings, or the 70 somethings grabbing for their classic Lambrusco. No. This wine was crafted to draw in the person (under the age of 35) who's heard of Tempranillo, as well as the person who so gladly enjoys a bottle of Moscato from time to time. For a generation who, more and more, puts emphasis on healthy and locally grown food with a story, there's no reason we should hold our wine to any less of a standard.

Yes, I get that Moscato is (or maybe was) the hottest category in wine sales. When I was a wine buyer it was a running joke that each week a distributor would surely bring along a different color of Moscato to sell. Even today, I heard that Barefoot Wine(ry) is releasing a 'NEW' Red Moscato. Barf. If I sourced Moscato from somewhere, added blue food coloring, attached a straw to each bottle, and came up with a mediocre ad campaign, I think that moving a few thousand cases would be a simple business transaction. It makes sense in our Fast Food culture, but unhealthy Fast Food is dying, right?

I'd like to think it's my responsibility to voice some opposition. You guys, the ones in suits laughing at your quarterly meetings about how your 'outcome based wine' actually succeeded. You guys, the ones who have no connection to, rather no care for family estates or grower-producers. You guys, the ones who don't even drink wine, only endless dry vodka martinis or Bud Light, but somehow attach your name to a corporate wine label. Enough is enough! Tempranillo has already been watered down and stripped of it's regional character in Spain. Why in the hell would you even, in a million years, try and add it to Moscato, THEN sell it for $6.99 a bottle?

I'm Pissed. Millenial wine drinkers will not fall for your garbage (I hope). And if they do, it will only be once, because there's no way that the piss you put into bottle will dazzle them enough to go back and buy a second.

On a more positive note, It's supposed to snow here in Madison this weekend. I'm going to stock up on Rose', from small, family run producers in France, Spain, and America. I'm going to fire up the grill and fill the fridge with fresh produce and cheese. I'm going to surround myself with great people, and drink REAL wine, with REAL food. We're going to welcome Spring to Wisconsin once and for all. And no, my nose isn't always pointed skyward, only when I get fired up about things like freaking Tempranillo-Moscato.

and don't forget to

Friday, April 12, 2013

Friday Bubbles

People don't drink enough sparkling wine. Period. It's too often saved for special occasions or mimosas, unfortunately. There is such a wide array of styles and flavors, from under $10 a bottle Cava made from indigenous Spanish grapes, to high end Grower Champagne, grown, vinified, and bottled by humble farmers with a story, and elegant Lambrusco that will put your grandmother's Riunite to shame. Given the taste profiles and high acid content in most bubbly, it's also one hell of a food wine, standing up to the fattiest of foods (potato chips, thanks WineCoMN). Try it, I dare you.

While working at a small wine shop in Milwaukee during a short stint living at home I was energized and inspired by the employee tradition of popping the cork on a bottle of bubbly every Friday afternoon. We all celebrate our little victories and forget about our downfalls from the week prior once 4:00 rolls around on Friday. What better way to do it than with a bottle of bubbly? It's a weekly 'special occasion'. Instead of your 'go to' wine, why not try something new this week? I did, and I'm greatly pleased. Cheers, and don't forget to FEELtheWINE.

Wines that inspired this post:

Jansz Premium Non-Vintage Cuvée
Tasmania, Australia
Avg. Retail: $23 USD

58% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir, and 2% Pinot Meunier

This unique bubbly comes from the Northeast corner of Australia's little island to the South. The cool maritime climate surely adds to the acid profile of the wine. Claiming to be the first in Tasmania to craft high-quality sparkling wine in the traditional Méthode Champenoise, Jansz has aptly named their production Méthode Tasmanoise which I find hilarious. I get green apple, orangey spices, and creme brulée on the nose. The bubbles are finer than many, enhancing the unique mouth-feel, with a dry, carmely, crisp finish. Once it's warm enough to be sitting outside on a patio, the yard is in full bloom, pollen clogging your sinuses, and good friends chattering all around, I have no doubt this wine will be a surefire 'porch pounder'.

Chateau Gaudrelle Crémant de Loire
Vouvray, France
Avg. Retail: $18 USD

50% Chenin Blanc and 50% Chardonnay

Crafted in the 'Cremant de Loire' appelation by fifth generation winemaker Alexandre Monmousseau. There is a subtle, sweet roundness I presume comes from the Chenin Blanc. Chardonnay, while not necessarily signature to the region, fills out the mouth and adds some fine acidity. Absent are the bready, yeasty notes of traditional Champagne, though this wine is made in the same style and aged in bottle 18 to 24 months before disgorgement. A smoky, struck match note lingers over and over on the nose, while the wine finishes slightly off-dry. Mr. Monmousseau is part of the 'tendre-sec' (gentle dry) movement of producing slightly off-dry wines, along with notable giants as Huet and Champalou. I would pair the shit out of this wine with any fatty appetizer, and for the price, it seems like a no-brainer for high-quality, small-production bubbly.
Here's a link to a video review of the wine I found on YouTube, which I feel to be well informed.

Cheers, and Happy Week-End!