Wine Travels — Finger Lakes

The Finger Lakes are full of wineries — some good and some not so.

A highlight was visiting Dr. Frank’s – which was a real treat. Dr. Frank was the pioneer (immigrant from Eastern Europe) who introduced European grape vines to the region in the 1880s. He overcame lots of skeptics and truly launched the wine industry in the Finger Lakes.

He and his winery have won many awards –including Gold Medals and the Wine Spectators Hall of Fame — you must experience this tasting! It is outstanding! His third generation family sustains his commitments.

When you arrive at the Dr. Frank’s winery (Hammondsport, NY) which overlooks the lake in a beautiful setting, you are greeted with signs that ask you to wait outside and line up – and then you are greeted by a winery host who handles your tasting from start to finish. This was well managed – instead of staged and farcical (Bully Hill) or assembly line (Wagner). This was informative and fun. We learned about Dr. Frank – and we also learned that Dr. Frank’s wines sell much better relabeled under the Salmon Hill brand. It’s the marketing not the wine. We brought home a whole box of Dr. Frank’s wine – including a dry rose and a Ratatsiteli — sounds like “cat on the tele” an eastern European (Ukraine and Armenian) grape that was an interesting experience!

There’s lots to see and do in the Finger Lakes — including Seneca Falls (known for the history of the Women’s Suffrage movement and the inspiration for the movie “It’s a Wonderful Life” which is recreated each Christmas) and Skaneateles – a quaint town located at the top of Lake Skaneateles – full of interesting shops and a great place for shopping and a walk on the pier.

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Wine Party Idea – Re-create a Wine Tasting

We liked the wine and the food at a wine tasting at Vino Italiano in Waltham, MA featuring wines from Sicily.

So, we bought the wines that were featured. Then, we shared the tasting notes and menu with some friends. We asked our friends to bring a dish — and viola, we have a wine party. Using the wine maker’s notes, we sort of re-create the event and learn something about the wines of Sicily … and have a good time.  Fun & easy!

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Wine Ratings – What do those numbers mean to you?

Wine Ratings – What do those numbers mean to you?

There’s a lot of controversy about the wine rating “numbers” and whether they really represent an objective assessment of the quality of the wine. (There are lots of insider deals between the “raters” and the “wine makers” – so be skeptical about the numbers.) Example from Wine Spectator.com: (Is 3 points really worth $55?)

Different publications rate wines based on a 100-point scale during controlled tests. Sounds like school! Well-known publications that do this include the Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Wines & Spirits, and Robert Parker’s The Wine Advocate. In theory, tastings are often conducted “blind,” meaning the tasters do not know what they are tasting. They may be provided with some basic information such as the wine’s varietal, region and/or vintage. (Keep this in mind when you have a party holding blind tastings.)

Wine Spectator‘s 100-Point Scale is a typical example:

  • 95-100 — Classic; a great wine
  • 90-94 — Outstanding; superior character and style
  • 80-89 — Good to very good; wine with special qualities
  • 70-79 — Average; drinkable wine that may have minor flaws
  • 60-69 — Below average; drinkable but not recommended
  • 50-59 — Poor; undrinkable, not recommended

The wine is rated on various criteria. Each criterion has a multiplier, and then the final score is added up. Wines are usually rated on four criteria in this order:

  1. Appearance
  2. Aroma
  3. Taste
  4. Harmony

Here is an example of how this works:

Wine Rating Tasting Sheet

Wine (include name, varietal, region, vintage, price, importer and/or any other characteristic important to you): Vigoroso Buono, Sangiovese, Tuscany, 2004, $24

Name of taster: Maria

Date: February 14

Criteria Scale Score Circle the score for each criterion. Multiplier Score times Multiplier
Appearance (how it looks – cleanness, clarity, color) 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10 1 5
Aroma (how it smells, the “nose”) 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10 2 12
Taste (how it feels in your mouth – intensity, body) 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10 3 21
Harmony (how you experience it overall, roundness, quality) 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10 4 24
Total Score 91-100 points – Superb81-90 points – Excellent71-80 points – Very Good61-70 points – Good51-60 points – Ordinary50 and under – Undrinkable   62

 

Understanding the rating system, and your personal preferences, can help you buy wine more knowledgably. However, what’s important is what tastes good to you.

While we remain skeptical about the experts’ ratings, we have found winedogs enjoy rating wines at parties. You can have a fun party comparing your assessment of the wine with the so-called “experts’” numbers – just be sure you cover up the published rating number until after you’ve tasted and scored the wine yourself. Use the following worksheet as a handout for each guest. Use a larger worksheet on a wall where you can write in the average rating score of your guests and the covered up expert score.

Wine Rating Tasting Sheet

Wine (include name, varietal, region, vintage, price, importer and/or any other characteristic important to you):

Name of taster:

Date:

Criteria Scale Score Circle the score for each criterion. Multiplier Score times Multiplier
Appearance (how it looks – cleanness, clarity, color) 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10 1  
Aroma (how it smells, the “nose”) 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10 2  
Taste (how it feels in your mouth – intensity, body) 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10 3  
Harmony (how you experience it overall, roundness, quality) 1   2   3   4   5   6   7   8   9   10 4  
Total Score 91-100 points – Superb81-90 points – Excellent71-80 points – Very Good61-70 points – Good51-60 points – Ordinary50 and under – Undrinkable    

 

We think drinking wine is like traveling. You have to keep exploring to find out what you like. You may have your old favorite haunts, but discovering a new place is so exciting and wonderful. And just like your appreciation of a certain place can change over time, one’s palate may also change. We believe that change makes life better. Ever the optimists!

A votre santé! Cin Cin! Cheers! Wen Lie! Slainte! Ooggy Wawa! Tulleeho!

Jean Sifleet and Susanne Flynn aka The Winedogs

Check our blog for more info: http://www.winedogsblog.wordpress.com

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Wine drinkers are less likely to gain weight

According to an article in the March 2011 issue of Wine Spectator, the results from the SUN project (a long-term experiment at the University of Navarra in Spain)  “beer and spirits drinkers tended to gain an average of 4 ounces every year, whereas wine drinkers showed no weight gain.”

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Wine 1 from Panzano: Valle Reale, Vigne Nuove, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo

This is Winedog2 reporting on her first challenge from buying a case at Panzano. I tried the 2009 Valle Reale, Vigne Nuove, Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, for $14 first. I drank it with a dinner of mahogany clams, haddock and bay scallops in marina sauce with fetticine, spinach and garlic. Delicious!

 

Musing:

A lot of the good values are found in new world vines. So it is nice to find some good value in old world wines. Interestingly, this may be old world but these are new vines. Go figure!

First a little about the region, copied pretty much from Panzano’s website:

Abruzzo

A region with a newly developed popularity thanks to the often friendly appealing & complex bottlings of a fantastic red known as Montepulciano d’Abruzzo, this area has become a new discovery for many wine enthusiasts. Other important wines of Abruzzo are Cerasuolo, and Trebbiano d’Abruzzo. These wines tend to reflect tradition and often drink in above most people’s expectations. Typical dishes of this region are hardy and simple: Roasted Lamb, Bucatini all’Amatriciana, and Pecorino (sheeps’s milk) cheeses.

Check out the map to see where Abruzzo is. It is pretty close to Rome.

 

Grape Varietals:
Red: Montepulciano, Barbera, Sangiovese
White: Trebbiano

Producers we work with:

  • Cerulli Spinozzi
  • Dario D’Angelo
  • Edoardo Vallentini
  • Marina Cvetic
  • Valle Reale

Valle Reale

This is a photo of Valle Reale from the Panzano website

Valle Reale seems pre-destined to produce world class wine. Located in the green heart of Abruzzo, its vineyards are situated inside one of Italy’s most beautiful national parks. Valle Reale is one of the few wine-producing estates in the area. The topography and climate of this part of Abruzzo is completely different from the rest of the region and unique within central Italy. The vineyards have thin soils, very rich in limestone with a light base of clay and sand. The grapes that are grown here take advantage of constant cool breezes which ensure good ventilation and minimize humidity, ideal for the development of fine aromas. This specific terrain and climate of this area are reflected in the wines, which are characterized by the trademarks of fully mature fruit and aromatic complexities.

A description from Winex.com follows. Note the devotion to quality and reasonably pricing. I enjoyed this wine very much and felt $14 was a winedog victory!

This is as good a place to start the year as any, seeing as you have so many positive factors here, like a well-run, innovative winery, a luscious versatile red, an outstanding and very user friendly vintage, and, best of all, a great price. The winery makes three wines including one that was a three-glass choice from Gambero Rosso. This is their value play, the name stemming from the fact that this is a relatively new site (‘vigne nuove’ means new vines). It is a pure Montepulciano, hand-harvested in the month of October and fermented in stainless steel tanks to maintain freshness and fragrance of the fruit that is so indicative of the Montepulciano from this area. Dark color, cherry, mineral and herb on the nose, hard to believe this is from five year old vines cropped at almost 6 tons to the acre! The usually rough and tumble tannins are quite suave and that generous cherry fruit really engages the palate from front to back, with a deceptively long finish.

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Introducing Panzano’s of Southboro MA

Panzano in Southboro, MA is a great place for wine, especially Italian wines. It also carries some great delicacies such as wild boar sausage. It is affiliated with Tomasso’s, an Italian restaurant located in the same plaza. Yummy, yummy over there.

Winedog2 has given herself a challenge. She wandered into Panzano’s and bought a case of Italian wine – 6 red and 6 white. They are all value wines – 2 are $10 and the rest are $17 or under.

The charming and very knowledgeable Fred Mullins, Wine Director, helped her pick out the wines. He was great because he asked her what types of wines she prefers and then tried to match her tastes with wines that are new to her. And he honored her commitment to value without making her feel cheap or ignorant. (Panzano does carry some very expensive wines so they may prefer the bigger spenders. But Fred never showed anything but enthusiasm and great service.)

Winedog2’s challenge for herself is to drink every one of these wines with joy, good food, good company, and then write about her experiences. It is a big challenge, but she will do her best.

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POT LUCK WINE PARTY 1-2-3

  1. Pick the wines.
  2. Invite your 6-12 friends to bring a dish to match a specific wine.
  3. Enjoy each dish with the specific wine and discuss.

 It helps to have a theme in mind when planning a wine party. A theme is simply an approach to the party that helps you plan and make decisions. The theme for this event could be Value Wines from Around the World.

 For this party, we are going to keep things simple and basic. We are picking six wines, all different varietals from around the world – three whites and three reds. So it will be easy to find the wines! And pot luck makes it easy on the host/hostess. Planning and preparation is minimal.

 See the end of this paper for a simple-to-use party planner.

 The wines we are tasting tonight range from $8-12 with the theme Value Wines from Around the World

First White Wine: Terranoble Classic Sauvignon Blanc Chile, 2009Made from 100% Sauvignon Blanc harvested in March from various vineyards in the Central Valley.Do you taste tropical fruits, especially pineapple? Can you taste the acidity?  

 Suggested food pairings:

Vegetables, dips, seafood, poultry, risotto, and pasta. The following recipe would work nicely.

Lemon and Garlic Roast Chicken

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/lemon-and-garlic-roast-chicken-recipe/index.html

Second White Wine: Kris Pinot GrigioItalian  Winemaker Franz Haas is the seventh generation in a family of Alto Adige winemakers dating back to 1880.Can you taste bold citrus, floral, and mineral notes, with a touch of almond?   

Suggested food pairings:

Vegetables, seafood, poultry, risotto, and pasta such as:

Fettuccini Alfredo with Prosciutto and Peas

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/emeril-lagasse/fettuccini-alfredo-with-prosciutto-and-peas-recipe/index.html

Third White Wine: Heron ChardonnayCalifornia, 2008This is a “French style” Chardonnay, which means it is not oaky like many California Chards.Can you taste lemon, pear and orange peel? A hint of vanilla?  

Suggested food pairings:

Cheeses (such as goat, Swiss, or Gouda), Quesadillas, chicken, seafood prepared in butter or white wine sauces such as:

Baby Shrimp Scampi and Angel Hair Pasta

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/rachael-ray/baby-shrimp-scampi-and-angel-hair-pasta-recipe/index.html

First Red Wine: Borsao, Spanish2009 -GrenachaCan you taste cracked black pepper and clove? How about dried cherries, notes of cinnamon and dark cocoa?  

Suggested food pairings:

Red meats, sausage, stews, barbeques. How about?

Grilled Beef Tenderloin with Golden Beet and Blue Cheese Puree
http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/michael-symon/grilled-beef-tenderloin-with-golden-beet-and-blue-cheese-puree-recipe/index.html

Second Red Wine: Reserva Nieto Senetiner Malbec  2004 ArgentinaA deeply-colored powerful red with great concentration of berries.Can you taste plums, figs and dried fruit and spicy vanilla?  

Suggested food pairings:

Grilled beef or lamb pairs nicely. Your guest can simply bring the meat, marinated or not, to your house and grill it there. Or they could do something fancier like:

Grilled Lamb Chops with Pomegranate-Port Reduction
http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/Grilled-Lamb-Chops-with-Pomegranate-Port-Reduction/Detail.aspx

Third Red Wine: Grayson Cabernet Sauvignon

California

This full bodied wine provides a round mouth feel. Would you call this wine silky? Can you taste red fruit, olives, chili or other herbs?

 

 Suggested food pairings:

Red meats, sausage, stews, barbeques. How about?

Red Wine Marinated Flank Steak Filled with Prosciutto, Fontina and Basil with Cabernet-Shallot Reduction

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/bobby-flay/red-wine-marinated-flank-steak-filled-with-prosciutto-fontina-and-basil-with-cabernet-shallot-reduction-recipe/index.html

_________________________________________________

PARTY PLANNER

 DATE: _________________________

 PLACE: _________________________

 TIME: __________________________

 THEME: ________________________

 (1) WINES SELECTED:

________________________

________________________

________________________

________________________

________________________

________________________

 (2) GUESTS: (need RSVP)

 Name ____________________________ Dish paired with which wine?_____________________

Name ____________________________ Dish paired with which wine?_____________________

Name ____________________________ Dish paired with which wine?_____________________

Name ____________________________ Dish paired with which wine?_____________________

Name ____________________________ Dish paired with which wine?_____________________

Name ____________________________ Dish paired with which wine?_____________________

Name ____________________________ Dish paired with which wine?_____________________

Name ____________________________ Dish paired with which wine?_____________________

Name ____________________________ Dish paired with which wine?_____________________

Name ____________________________ Dish paired with which wine?_____________________

Name ____________________________ Dish paired with which wine?_____________________ 

(3) Organize the menu and the wines.

 Don’t put all the dishes in a buffet. Arrange the host’s party space so that each wine and dish is featured separately.

 Feature the serving of each dish with its companion wine, one at a time. Let each cook present his/her creation, separately, for tasting on small plates. Read a short description about the wine out loud.

Make sure drinking water is easily available to all guests throughout the party.

 HAVE FUN!

 Thanks,

The Wine-Dogs

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