Shana Speaks Wine

Wine Journalist, Copywriter, and Marketing Consultant

Drinking out loud. 

Filtering by Category: "grenache"

Blizzard-Worthy Bottles

Ah, blizzards. Some people opt to ravage grocery stores like bears at a campsite then hibernate for days. I view it as a chance to go out and play, a wonderland devoid of traffic and crowded sidewalks.  In this alternate universe, a snowball fight in the middle of the street during rush hour is entirely possible.

In a blink-and-you'll-miss-it moment,  a blizzard hit NYC a couple of weeks ago.  Two days later everything melted, but for a nanosecond the city was something out a Disney movie:

(photo courtesy of Jennifer Hill)

My other favorite part of a blizzard?  The ease of getting into restaurants that normally require reservations weeks out.  Taking full advantage of this situation, we scaled snowdrifts for some fabulous food and, of course, wine.

Friday night we hit up Louro, a new neighborhood spot which absolutely lived up to all the buzz it's been generating. The dishes were inventive yet accesible and felt playful but yet made you stop and think about what the hell was going on in your mouth.

Reviewing the wine list, I paused at the Grenache from Spain. Grenache is more commonly referred to as Garnacha in that country - why the other terminology? Regardless, the juicy pluminess of the Garnacha sounded like a warm, enveloping hug, perfect for the night.

Once the bottle arrived at the table, I understood the French labeling. The wine was actually a Rhone blend: 70% Grenache, 10% Carignan, 10% Syrah, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. How would this compare to a French Cote du Rhone?

Clot D'Encis, Rhone Blend, Agricola Sant Josep, Spain
The Grenache was prominent as the fruit hit our noses immediately, Cherry, raspberry, and a bit of plum sprang up, with a little bit of spice trailing behind. The first couple of sips followed suit in flavor and the medium body, comparable to a classic Rhone, was also present. However, I noted more tannins in this wine over other CdR wines and the acidity felt a bit higher. Overall, though, it was very balanced and smooth and intensely enjoyable.

The next night, we went to Minetta Tavern, one of my all-time favorite NYC restaurants.  Reservations are difficult, to put it mildly, and walk-ins are unimaginable before 11pm, but as it's in our neighborhood, we've lucked out more often than not.  The blizzard aided in our dinner quest and before long we were indulging in their famous Black Label burgers and of course, wine.

Domaine le Sang des Cailloux, Vacqueyras 2010, France
A neighboring regions to Chateauneuf du Pape, this Syrah, Grenache and Mourvedre blend showcased deep dark berry fruits, herbaceous spices, notes of artichoke, and plenty of rootsy earthiness.  On the palate, the same notes, along bit plums, drank very smoothly, enhanced by a medium plus body and pronounced tannins.  The burger and wine were having a lovefest in my mouth.

As a total aside, they serve one of the best desserts in the city - a classic chocolate souffle for two.  We have occasionally come into the restaurant just for this dessert.  We are also not embarrassed to admit we have ordered two of these on the same visit.  Yep, souffle for four people but only two people eating it.  Don't judge.

Keep tasting, friends....

How to Soothe Technology Woes

I have big aspirations. Huge. Holiday break means time to conquer all those niggling tasks and projects that I never seem to get to during the week (dry cleaning, I'm looking at you) and a large chunk of them are technology related: transferring pictures and files from the old Dell to the Mac, updating software, etc. In addition, I'm developing the Shana Speaks Wine webpage (you heard it here first!) as well as working on an upcoming event.

But, as it seems to go with all things tech, things are gonna get ugly before they get better. After a phone session with an Apple technician that left my laptop (and my mood) in worse condition than when I began, it felt like the right time to try a Cote du Rhone that I recently brought home.

Parallele 45 Cotes du Rhone 2010
On the nose, this 60% Grenache/40% Syrah blend showcased traditional notes of black cherry, raspberry and green and red bell peppers, along with some red licorice. The first sip was a little tannic and astringent, but mellowed out after a few minutes in the glass. Sipping through, the same flavor profiles from the nose were present on the palate, but there was much more black pepper and spiciness on the tongue. It was more medium-bodied than other Cote du Rhones but by no means was full-bodied. This is a great value wine and a solid choice for a weeknight or whenever you just want something to soothe an irritated mood.

Philanthropically Drinking

(This post is a little delayed, let's call it fashionably late)

"Fuggedaboudit." "Get outta hee-ah."  "No soup for you!"

New Yorkers have notorious reputations for being brusque, abrasive and downright rude.  However, in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, the entire city took on an attitude of "How can I help?" At its  core, New York is really a series of small towns: communities bonded through proximity, hobbies, or vocation.  When your neighbors suffer, you want to provide relief and restore a sense of normalcy.

The restaurant and bar industry immediately mobilized to help establishments that were felled by the Hurricane.  Among the benefits and fundraisers, one in particular caught my eye.  Ardesia, a favorite wine bar, was offering a taste of 6 of their favorite wines for $30, all proceeds benefiting, a nonprofit organization.  In addition, they were donating a proceed of sales of their NY-style soft pretzels to the nonprofit.  Their craveworthy pretzels and a wine tasting?   Calendars marked!

The Whites
Jurancon Sec, Chant des Vignes, Domaine Cauhape, Jurancon France 2011
The wine opened with peach, white blossoms and honeysuckle on the nose.  However, the palate showcased green apple, lemon and quite a bit of minerality.   I don't often drink such floral, aromatic wines as my nose tricks my brain into thinking I'm going to end up sipping a bridesmaid's bouquet, but this wine had a decent amount of acid and a dry finish, making it really enjoyable.

Albarino, Valdemonxes, Rias Baixas Spain 2011
I adore Albarinos and this one was no exception. It smelled of lime and slate with notes of  green apple, mineral, and lemon peel revealing themselves as I sipped. It was smooth, despite the noticeable acid, and even my friend, who almost exclusively drinks red wine, praised this one.

Ribolla Movia, Brda Slovenia 2008
Slovenian wines are completely uncharted territory for me so this was going to be an adventure.  The wine was slightly orange in color, not as deep as the "orange wines" that have been gaining popularity, but definitely outside of the deep-gold-to-pale-lemon spectrum.   Green apple and baking spices appeared immediately but were joined, almost overwhelmed, with butter and oak.  It reminded me of those bold California chardonnays that I dislike and I had a hard time getting through this glass.

The Reds
Marcel Lapierre "Raisins Gaulois" Vin de France 2011
What November wine tasting would be complete without a Beaujolais? This one was a classic, straightforward example.  Light bodied and fruit-driven, cherry and plum played around in the glass on on the tongue.   It's like conversational small talk: simple, easy and comfortable.

Tinhof "Blau+Red" Burgenland Austria 2009
This wine, a blend of Blaufrankisch and Zweigelt,  was a delicious and intriguing pour.  Cherry, plum, earth and a bit of green pepper aromas appeared on the nose.  First sips juicy sips gave way to spinach and tobacco notes, with a long finish that seemed to circle back to black cherry.  I kept going back to this one as I kept discovering something new as the wine opened in the glass.

Shiraz/Grenache/Mourvedre-Kaesler "Stonehorse" Barossa Valley Australia 2008
What happens when a Cote du Rhone blend goes on a beach vacation?  You get this New World red.
Up front, it was super jammy with scents of blueberry and stewed fruits, along with chocolate and  tobacco.  In the mouth, fig jam and stewed fruits were balanced with pronounced but well-integrated tannins and tobacco.  This wine had a lot of heft and body and was a delicious conclusion to the tasting.

24 Hours of Cote du Rhone - Part 2

On Saturday morning, the chateau moved us to a master suite and once we settled into our new space, I took a brisk walk around the vineyard before chatting with the locals over a lovely pre-dinner aperitif.

Or, in reality-speak, power was restored downtown and we were able to return to our apartment.  It was a bit chilly and the fridge was a little smelly, but it felt great to be back in our place.   I also fit in a quick workout, a valiant effort to counteract my weeklong diet of pizza, french fries and halloween candy, all which had been washed down with copious amounts of wine. I then dashed back uptown for the second Cote du Rhone tasting of the weekend.

The day was extraordinarily busy in the shop.  Downtown refugees were coming in to buy presents for their host friends, tourists in town for the aborted marathon were looking to soothe their frustrations and everyone in general just seemed to want a drink to help them relax from the stressful week.  As a result, we ran through the two red tasting bottles very quickly.  Eager to capitalize on the traffic, we opened replacements bottles, which gave the opportunity to do a side-by-side tasting, a Battle of the Wines, if you will. 

The Rhone Blend Showdown

L'Ermitage 2010 (note:  due to the rapid pace at which we went through this, I wasn't able to record all the pertinent information about this wine, but will try to seek it out and update this post when I do) -  Vinified with grenache/syrah/mouvedre/carignan, this was the first blend we opened. Raspberry, ripe cherry, blueberry, green and black pepper shone through on nose.  The same notes repeated on the palate, with a bit of earth and soil making an appearance.  Like many Cote du Rhones, this was a lighter bodied red, easy to drink on its own but could definitely hold its own against lighter chicken and pasta dishes. 

Chateau D'Aiguevelle Cote Du Rhone 2010 - For the most part, it was similar to its predecessor in its aromas and initial flavor notes on the palate, but was more astringent and showed more prominent tannins.  There was something a little immature about this one and my preference fell to the L’Ermitage for a Rhone blend. 

WINNER - L'Ermitage

The Syrah Smackdown
Francois De Tournon Saint Joseph Delas 2009 - This 100% Syrah was primarily driven by pepper, earthiness and spiciness. Fruit was more of a secondary player; plum and black cherry comingled with the classic syrah qualities on the nose.  Upon the first couple sips, the pitted fruits lent a round juiciness to this wine but bell pepper, tar and tobacco fought for prominence. No doubt about it, this wine was bone dry. Factor that in with the lively tannins and a medium plus body and we were drinking big wine.  I’m interested to see how this one will age. 

Domaine des Grands Chemins Croze Hermitage Delas 2009 - Another 100% Syrah, this one showcased the same classic syrah characteristics of earth and spice.  Upon first reveal, many of its qualities echoed the St Joseph, but after a couple of sips, it felt more astringent and the tannins didn’t feel as well integrated as the other.  Still a big wine, it may be more enjoyable with a meal, but I think the St. Joseph took the medal in this match.

WINNER:  Francois De Tournon Saint Joseph Delas 2009

We also poured one white that day:
Domaine La Fond Roc-Epine Lirac 2010
This grenache blanc, marsanne and viognier blend was golden apple, pear, and honeycomb on the nose. First sips revealed the same orchard fruits balanced with citrus; however, the honey was nonexistent on palate and this medium-bodied wine finished very dry. I love when a wine surprises me and what I detect in aromas belies what I taste.

Eventually the event, and thus, the Cote du Rhone vacation, was over.  However, it was a wonderful feeling to be able to return home, not only physically but with the psychological reassurance that life could start getting back to normal.