26 November 2014

Happy Thanksgiving!

Greetings everyone! All is going well here at BWR headquarters with lots of outside writing assignments and a busy season at work. But fear not, I have not abandoned the blog, and one of the benefits of a large back catalog is that you can point to some earlier work when asked the same question over and over again. So here are Nine Years' Worth of Thanksgiving Posts.

In the meantime, lots of holiday samples have arrived and expect to see a lot more posts for the remainder of the calendar year. Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving!

16 November 2014

2012 M. Chapoutier Banyuls

Sometimes a sample has to sit around for the right moment. Banyuls is not well known in the United States. It's a fortified dessert wine similar to Port that's made in the south of France. It pairs beautifully with dark chocolate and is the kind of thing that you'd love to sip on around a fire in the winter. So when this bottle arrived on a hot summer day several months ago, I knew that I couldn't do it justice.

This past weekend I was invited to a dinner party hosted by my friend Melissa, and I offered to bring a dozen wines with the one request that dessert feature dark chocolate so that we could properly enjoy the Banyuls. I thought that we might just have a few squares of 80% cacao, but she went all out and made a torte from scratch. Bonus points for the banana pie!

I was excited to serve the wine to a group of people that had never had it before, and the bottle emptied quickly.

2012 M. Chapoutier Banyuls
Banyuls AOC, France
100% Grenache
$30/500mL bottle, 16% abv.

Intense aromas of stewed fruit, raisins, and black cherry. Dark fruit flavors and sweet but not cloying. The dark chocolate provides a powerful contrast of bitter notes which makes you go back and forth between the dessert and the wine, activating all parts of your palate. Highly recommended for the holiday season.

Note: This wine was provided as a sample for review.

11 November 2014

50 Harvests Followup

I wanted to do a followup to my previous post on the 2012 Scotto Celllars 50 Harvests Meritage based on a surprise that showed up today.

I love being a wine writer and there are a lot of perks to the job, both here and in the world of freelancing. There are times when it is stressful and I generally keep those concerns private with fellow writers, because it sounds like whining to the rest of the world. "I had to taste thirty Sauvignon Blancs today... I can barely feel my tongue." If you take this gig seriously, trying thirty wines in a row can be exhausting from a sensory and mental standpoint. Take whatever you like: football, for instance, and instead of just watching your favorite team once on the weekend, you instead have to watch just the first five minutes of thirty different games, take notes on said five minutes, provide analysis... it can be tiring, but at the end of the day there are worse ways to pay the rent.

My one bittersweet complaint that I have mentioned here from time to time is that at a certain point, you start trying a bunch of wines that are great now but are really going to shine in a few years or a decade. And you can't really wait that long because the publicity cycle is at release or tied to a certain holiday. Who knows what may happen--a winery could go out of business, the small exotic wine region could be disrupted by economic or military concerns, anything. So you write about it now and give your best guess for when you think it will be in the Goldilocks Zone based on prior experience with similar styles that have been aged.

After I said, "And oh, to be able to taste this in 6-8 years when it will really shine...", Anthony Scotto was kind enough to send me a second bottle to try in 2021 with instructions written on the bottle in silver ink. This is not a quid pro quo: I'm not promising a good review in seven years per my sample policy. And there is journalistic precedent for this, in terms of privately requesting a second bottle if the sample you received is corked or damaged in shipping. Nothing was wrong with the first bottle (quite the opposite), but I appreciate the opportunity to try this one with proper aging. I have no idea what the wine writing world will look like then, but I am committed to keeping this one stored properly so that I can evaluate it at that time.

I've been given older vintages in the past, and of course have had the chance to try some spectacularly aged wines at private tastings, but this is the first time that I've been provided with a sample with the intent of getting back to them in seven years. I'm looking forward to the experiment!

Note: This wine was provided as a sample for review... in 2021.

05 November 2014

2012 50 Harvests Meritage

I'm always honored at the opportunity to taste small production wines. I tried the 2011 50 Harvests Cabernet Sauvignon in March, a Napa wine designed to celebrate 50 years in the California wine business. That link will tell you a lot of this family's history and how they got into the winemaking business.

This year, they marked their second half-century with their first Napa Meritage (from the 2012 vintage), made by the same Scotto family who produced the William Tell Cider I recently reviewed. This might be the most elegant Meritage I've ever consumed. I'm a fan of the type--Bordeaux-style without infringing on labeling laws and without strict varietal rules (though Meritage has a few...). Mainly California in source, but there are others produced domestically and internationally. You can find quite good, "drink now" bottles in the $20-30 range. Orthodox Bordeaux is wonderful, but sometimes it can be a little more fun with a bit of Petite Sirah or Zinfandel in it.

Last time I thought their release would go well with a well-aged ribeye, and this time around I did just that. Sometimes there are wines that you just sample and move on, but others you make a plan for. Nothing fancy, just a two-inch thick boneless ribeye cooked to medium rare, a loaded baked potato, and some steamed broccoli on a quiet evening at home. I'd had a glass breathing for about an hour, and finally gave it a sip. And oh, to be able to taste this in 6-8 years when it will really shine...

2012 50 Harvests Meritage
Napa Valley, California
60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 10% Malbec, 10% Petite Sirah
1,520 bottles produced (mine is #1248)
$50, 13.9% abv.

There is a lot going on with this particular nose. Aromas of chocolate, leather, coffee, black plum... On the palate dark fruit flavors of ripe blackberry follow with amazingly smooth tannins. Tart black cherry finish with a lingering flavor. The pairing with a thick, buttery ribeye was precisely what I was craving at the moment and I can't think of any combination that would work better for me. Highly recommended if you have the opportunity to try this impressive wine.

Note: This wine was provided as a sample for review.

02 November 2014

Woof Gang Bakery

This weekend I spent some time trying out new places in my neighborhood. My little patch of suburbia has a rich and constantly changing set of dining options, including a second Ethiopian restaurant that just opened up not far from the first one.

I'd noticed Woof Gang Bakery in Trinity Commons last year, but with a twinge of pain following the loss of my own faithful Wolfgang. But Bella came along a few months ago, and while running an errand I decided I had to stop in.

Woof Gang Bakery & Grooming Cordova
714 N. Germantown Pkwy
Suite 1
Cordova, TN 38018

I picked up a handful of dog biscuits baked on site, though they have a pretty wide range of healthy treats made out of things like dried salmon skin (favored by Alaskan sled dogs since the Yukon gold rush).

Clockwise from the upper left, there is a large frosted biscuit decorated in honor of breast cancer awareness month, a small pizza bone, a squirrel with a glazed tail, and a bagel.

After a 2.5 mile walk, I decided to check out these treats and let Bella sample a small portion of each. The squirrel and large bone are both very hard and slightly sweet, with the squirrel having sort of a gingerbread profile. The pizza bone is less dense and has a dark grain flavor. Finally, the little bagel is airy and crisp and would be perfect for older dogs with more sensitive teeth.

Bella does not get to participate in wine tasting or slugging down oysters, but was very happy to evaluate these treats. After a few hours I decided she should be allowed to eat the rest of the squirrel cookie since she'd chased several up a tree during our morning walk.

Overall, I was pleased with my trip to a dog-focused bakery and can highly recommend it for those of you in the northeast corner of Memphis.