The nice folks at Arizona Stronghold Winery sent me a bottle of their rosé as a sample back in the fall. I actually reviewed it in November. However, we’ve had a recent death in the family, in Arizona, so I thought I’d pull out some of the Arizona reviews and repost … it’s both in memory of Uncle Greg and in celebration of where we’ll be spending the upcoming weekend.
The 2009 Arizona Stronghold Dayden Cochise County Rosé is a blend of Zinfandel, Grenache, Sangiovese, Malbec, and Sauvignon Blanc from three different vineyard locations in Chochise County, Arizona. They chose to make this rosé in the saignée style. Saignée is a method of rosé production that involves bleeding off the juice after limited contact with the skins. The juice only takes on a little of the color of the grape skins, due to the short time in which they had contact, leading to the pink color. The color is a nice medium-dark pink, nothing so peppy that you’ll be embarrassed to hold your glass in public. You can tell immediately that the wine has some heft.
The first thing we noticed was the rose petal nose. I hate saying that a rosé smells like roses, as it seems rather cliche, but there’s no denying that Kevin & I both got a floral aroma. The flavors are full of fruits and flowers, with some light strawberries wrapped in with some sour cherries and crushed flower petals. I know, that sounds ridiculous, but trust me. At only 11.9% AbV, this wine goes down fast and we powered through our bottle. It’s very balanced – you’re not overwhelmed by any one specific flavor or characteristic, and instead enjoy the entire delicate blend of flavors.
The Dayden has structure and heft – it’s not just a back-porch summertime rosé. The winery recommends pairing it with grilled vegetables, cold meats, and salads. I think we may have overchilled it, so that’s something you really need to watch with this one. While we enjoyed it right out of the fridge, it had a much sweeter finish when it was cold. As it warmed up a bit, it had a fuller, less sweet finish and we liked it even better. Definitely chill this wine, but you might want to pull it out of the fridge about 30 minutes before you drink it, just to get it up to optimum temperature.
I was hoping this wine might go well with Thanksgiving dinner, and while it might pair nicely with the cranberry portion, I don’t know about the rest. However, it is probably the perfect wine to pull out when you’re having a cold turkey sandwich on Black Friday, after a long day of shopping in the crazy local mall.
You’re probably thinking I just reviewed a wine you need to fly to Arizona to get your hands on. Not true. Recently the good folks at Dep’s Fine Wines have started carrying Arizona Stronghold, so head over there and pick up a bottle for around $12.99.
Small Gully Mr. Black’s Concoction 2004 Shiraz Viognier, Barossa Valley, Australia:
I first had this when we went to Bouquet in January 2008. I loved it and searched everywhere for it. Currently you can find it at Dep’s, Party Town, and Party Source, I believe. Back in 2008, I picked up several bottles of the 2004 vintage and I just finished off the last of them.
Mr Black’s Shiraz-Viognier Concoction consists of 4% Viognier, 96% Shiraz, and it has a powerful and fragrant bouquet. This is a high-alcohol fruit bomb. I don’t know why I like it so much – it’s not my normal style at all. I find it to be well-balanced; I could certainly feel the alcohol but I couldn’t taste it. The fruit seems to contain the wine and it didn’t seem “hot.” To say it is fruit-forward is an understatement, though. There are all sorts of berries and cherries and dark fruits, all racing to get to your tongue first. It’s definitely jammy. This Concoction is a big wine, there’s no doubt about it, but it’s also a fun wine. I’m not sure how it would work with a meal, but it pairs well with cheese and I enjoyed it while munching on my favorite, Parmigiano Reggiano. In Northern Ky, Mr Black’s Concoction retails for around $20.
I thought I’d pull from some of my previous wine reviews to give you just a couple of suggestions for your Easter Sunday.
McNab Ridge French Columbard
French Colombard is a white wine that McNab Ridge is growing to “preserve history in the county” [Mendocino]. Not many people grow French Columbard anymore, but it used to be quite common. It is believed to be an offspring of chenin blanc, another favorite grape of mine. Colombard was originally grown in France for distilling into Cognac and Armagnac (yum), so I’m not surprised I have an affinity for it.
This is an off-dry wine with 1.8% residual sugar. It had natural, bright acid. I noted that it was sweet, light, aromatic, and refreshing. Kevin noted the intensely floral characteristics, such as white flowers and pansies. During a more traditional first course at brunch, this wine added a bit of spice – or perhaps the food added the spice to the wine. It was certainly easy to drink and based on our own experiences, I think it might pair well with your own Easter brunch.
Saint-Meyland Brut, NV
I love bubbly. I particularly like French bubbly and believe in bubbly and mimosas for Easter.
First off, Saint-Meyland is French and it’s only $15. However, it is not officially ”champagne.” It’s made in the traditional method, but it’s just not quite located in the Champagne region of France, and well, it can’t take the name. It’s made from hand-picked grapes and has plenty of tiny bubbles and that nice dry taste you associate with a French Champagne. The nose has some vanilla and floral aromas and it has a long balanced flavor. It tastes more expensive than it is. Often, picking the French bubbly from just outside of the Champagne region will net you great taste and amazing value.
I can’t wait to pop this one open this weekend. This wine is a real value and your family might be impressed you showed up with such a tasty morsel from France for your Easter brunch.
I’m in search of help.
I would love to find someone, or someones, who would like to help out. I can’t pay you. You get only the wonderful name recognition that writing online will give you. Your mileage may vary.
I’ve had a few people express interest and then I never hear from them again. So here’s what I need from you: just email me a writing sample or two that (hopefully) talks about wine. I’ll review them and pick the best folks for the job. My only other requirement is that you’re located somewhere in Ohio / Kentucky / Indiana, since that’s where the majority of my readers are.
To write for this blog, you’ll need to submit one post a week to me. I’ll “run it through editorial” and then get it posted. You can write restaurant reviews (although not too many – that’s really Julie‘s turf), wine reviews, beer reviews, wine editorials … you name it. Just make it alcohol related. You’ll need to use all your own photos or properly credited Creative Commons images. You do not have to be an expert in wine. You just need to enjoy it a lot. Ideally, I’ll be able to create a team of contributors under the wine-girl umbrella.
So, shoot me an email. I’m really looking forward to hearing from you.
I’ll be writing a lot about bubbly over the next couple of weeks. After all, the holidays tend to make us want to break out the champagne, although I prefer to break it out for any reason I can think of.
My only regret in life is that I did not drink more Champagne.
- John Maynard Keynes
Champagne can soothe the soul and ignite romance. From the moment the cork issues the familiar pop, Champagne fuels excitement.
There are a lot of sparkling wines on the market, but they aren’t all Champagne. In order to be labeled “Champagne,” the wine must come from the Champagne region of France. This region pioneered the method of making Champagne that is now used worldwide. But it is the unique terroir of the region that makes true Champagne special. The region is uniquely suited for growing the three grapes that can make up the bubbly wine: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay. This northern French region is cooler, and the chalk in the soil contributes to the acidity and character of the grapes.
Large Champagne Houses, such as Taittinger or Moët & Chandon, grow some of their own grapes. However, a large percentage of their grapes are purchased from farmers throughout the Champagne region. Alternatively, grower Champagnes, often called “family fizz” or “farmer fizz,” are created by farmers who grow the grapes and tend the vineyards. Grower Champagne often meets or exceeds the quality of large House Champagne, but has a smaller price tag. Brett Davis, Sales Manager for importer/distributor Vintner Select, says that the “best values are your grower-producer Champagnes as far as quality to price ratio.”
Jen Stewart, wine buyer for MicroWines in Cincinnati, OH, prefers the grower Champagnes. “The growers put a lot of their heart, soul, and pride into the product. I’d rather have a wine that speaks of a sense of place, people, and their heritage. I find farmer fizz much more interesting and it is a better value because you’re paying for what you’re going to drink rather than the name and the label.”
Tyler Colman, author of the book “A Year of Wine: Perfect Pairings, Great Buys, and What to Sip for Each Season,” echoes her sentiments. “I really enjoy good grower champagnes for a lot of reasons. First, is clearly taste since they often have a lot of charm, reflecting greater individuality than the Champagnes from the big houses. Second, buying a grower Champagne supports a family business and, as with car rental firms, I like to believe that the little guy tries harder. Third, they often pack more punch at lower price points than wines from the grandes marques.”
How can you recognize a grower Champagne when you’re shopping for bubbly this holiday season? On the bottom of the front label, there will be a tiny number preceded by two letters. NM (Négociant-Manipulant) signals a larger house that purchases many of their grapes, whereas RM (Récoltant-Manipulant) tells you that the winemaker grew the grapes. According to Terry Theise, one of the leading importers of grower Champagnes, there are now nearly 180 RM Champagnes imported into the U.S, up from 33 in 1997. Grower Champagnes occupy only 2.95% of the market, presenting a great opportunity to try something new.
Champagne is one of the elegant extras in life.
- Charles Dickens
Whether you try a grower Champagne or opt for a larger house, you should understand the different types of Champagne available. A Champagne label includes a large amount of information about the wine, starting with vintage (or lack thereof).
Champagne is divided into vintage and non-vintage (NV) wine. NV Champagnes are the most common and often include grapes from 3 or more harvests. Every so often, a vintage is so remarkable that the winemaker will declare it a vintage year. Remember that while one House may declare a vintage, another may not. Vintage and NV wines are at the discretion of the winemaker.
Champagne also comes in several different styles that you’ll see on the label. Blanc de blancs means that the wine was produced from all white grapes. In Champagne, this means the wine is 100% Chardonnay. Blanc de noirs means the Champagne is produced from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, or a blend of the two. You should also pay attention to the sweetness levels, denoted by French terms on the label. Extra Brut is usually very dry champagne, whereas Brut is dry, but may still be a bit rich on the finish. Extra-Sec and Sec are usually medium dry wines and Demi-Sec is usually the sweetest style you’ll find on the market.
Champagne! In victory one deserves it; in defeat, one needs it.
- Napoleon Bonaparte
In his 2008 Champagne catalogue, Theise relates a story of comforting a grieving friend with a bottle of Champagne. “What other wine can be at once appropriate for both celebration and consolation? The very sight of the tiny rising bubbles, dancing upward as if to snub their noses at gravity and exploding in a soft wash of foam, are heralds of unquenchable hope.”
And while Champagne has built a reputation as the bubbly of celebration, the bubbly has also earned a place at the table for many wine lovers. In our own home, we have thrown a breakfast party, pairing a simple quiche with our favorite farmer fizz. Natalie Maclean, who publishes an award-winning wine newsletter at www.nataliemaclean.com, believes that “Grower Champagnes have a depth and richness that is especially versatile with food. I pair them with everything from potato chips to Thai dishes. But they work with so many dishes: seared tuna, spinach quiche, pasta in cream sauce and even fried chicken.”
Ryan Leitner, of Northern Kentucky’s Cork-n-Bottle, takes Champagne pairing a bit further. “Pinot Noir-based Champagnes will show more richness,” he says, “and will pair with meats and a smorgasbord of cheeses. Blanc de blancs are often enjoyable on their own. Keep your pairings light, such as a simple bistro salad with lobster claw.”
Whether you’re having potato chips or pasta, Champagne might just be the perfect match.
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in Taste magazine in 2008, and republished last Nov 30 in Palate Press. I re-published it here because I figure the information is at times local, timeless, and useful. Cheers!
Image from Flickr user TinyTall via Creative Commons license
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