Shana Speaks Wine

Wine Journalist, Copywriter, and Marketing Consultant

Drinking out loud. 

Filtering by Category: "syrah"

Illicit Behavior by Sud de France

"Angel by day, devil by night!" screamed the tabloid headlines.   Apparently, Sud de France has fallen into its old ways with its reds.  Boring, insipid wines that lack intrigue, or even basic balance, have started to show up at the tastings.  There seems to be a blasé attitude towards creating anything worthwhile, even though the potential is there.  

The third tasting event for Sud de France yielded uneven results. While the region has been known to experiment with grapes and blends, showcasing its cowboy spirit, a couple of the bottles seemed to show disregard for fundamentals of quality winemaking:

Felines Jourdan Picpoul de Pinet 2011 (approx. $15)
Like the Picpoul at the last event, this one showcased the same floral notes and apricot on the nose.  On the palate, ripe peach joined the apricot in the orchard, along with some lemon peel and slate-y minerality.  The salty essence that was so striking in the other Picpoul was very muted here, but it was still zingy and acidic.

Barons de Rothschild Lafite Val de L'ours, Chardonnay, 2011 (approx. $11)
Hooray! Another decent Chardonnay option.  Not quite as complex as Burgundy, this wine nonetheless gave Chard a little more street cred. Lemon and lime were immediately present on the nose and the palate, along with very ripe golden delicious apple.  There was a decent amount of stone and minerals on this wine to bring it back from the fruit side but had a round-ish mouthfeel, despite the fairly high acid.  

La Roche de la Chevaliere Cabernet Sauvignon, 2011 (approx. $12)
And then, SdF fell off the wagon.  Raspberry, blueberry and blackberry coupled with green bell pepper and wet soil on the nose, but the palate was thin and flat and the fruit was marred by a stemmy, underripe green note.  It was all out of whack and felt almost like an identity crisis - what cab sauv tastes like this?

C'est La View Pinot Noir Syrah 2011 (approx. $11)
In theory, I understood how this should have worked.  Pinot's plum and prune fruits could have given a plush, rounded feel to the peppery edge of the Syrah and as both wines are rooted with soil characteristics, it could have led to a rich, luscious wine.  However, what it gave was  a medium minus body that didn't deliver on the potential complexity.  It was thin, tight and high-pitched.  

Keep tasting, friends....

Inauguration Weekend

I think this sums up the Inauguration weekend in DC perfectly.

I'm sure Jose Andres was referring to the terroir and the history of the wine in his remark above, but wine can be transportive to a place in one's memory. Almost none of the wines I had that weekend were particularly spectacular or of note, but because of the context in which I drank them, I will relive these incredible moments when I see one of the bottles.

We started the weekend off with dinner at Bobby Van's on Friday night. With a good portion of their wine list half-price on Friday and Saturday nights, it made sense budget-wise to order a bottle (not like it really takes that much to convince me to order a bottle). We went for a Jean-Luc Colombo Croze-Hermitage Syrah 2006.  It was a very traditional Rhone Syrah, with notes of plum, black pepper, tobacco on the nose and similar spicy and herbaceous notes following suit on the palate.  Medium bodied and structured with medium tannins, it made good friends with our filet mignons.

Saturday brought us to the DC Armory for National Day of Service.  The air vibrated as thousands of people turned out to help and the rainbow population of volunteers melded together in camaraderie to create kits of grooming essentials for overseas troops.


(Dr. Jill and Vice President Joe Biden making a speech at the Armory)

We spent the remainder of the day walking around the National Mall and playing tourist until it was time to get ready for the Kids' Concert at the Convention Center.

Come on now, when you hear Kids' Concert, don't you think of choirs of children singing their little hearts out?  We did, and we were wrong. So, so wrong.  Our first inkling came when Usher opened the show.  By the time the closing act, Katy Perry, sang her last song to the cheering 4-ft-tall-and-under crowd, all we could think was, damn, feels good to be a kid.

Hungry and thirsty, we ended up at Tony Cheng's for Chinese.  Prosecco seemed like a good match for the Asian cuisine and with a group of 20+ people it worked as a crowd-pleaser, so we went with Lamarca Prosecco. The lightly yeasty notes mingled with hints of peach, apricot and other orchard fruits.  The mild bubbles gave it a good mouthfeel without overwhelming our food.

Sunday found us at brunch with my college friend, her husband and new baby.  Their awesome blog,, has been gaining quite the following and it was invigorating to talk shop (and food!) with them.

(Kennedy Center from the Georgetown Waterfront)

After, we wandered Georgetown for a bit until it was time for dinner at one of my favorite DC restaurants, Zaytinya (home of the opening blog picture).  However, after trying to coordinate with 15 people at a tapas dinner, I needed a drink - badly.  Unfortunately, I can't accurately report back on my glass of wine; I ordered an Assyrtiko but what I received lacked the stony flintiness and minerality normally associated with the grape.  Most likely, I received my neighbor's Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon/Assyrtiko blend as I noted pineapple and tropical fruits in this glass.  Still delicious, though.

Then (drumroll please)..................

Inaguration Day!

6:15am and we're downstairs, bleary-eyed but ready to start the day.  After security checks, we headed to the Capitol Building.

Everyone has been asking what it felt like to be there and the best I can say is, I felt like an atom, a tiny floating particle in a large moving object.  I was a part of something much bigger than I, but this grandness existed because of each of us present. The crowds flowed, swelled and crested with each speech and with each oath.  Never in my life have I ever felt so singularly alone yet an integral part of something.

(see the teeny-tiny monument in the background?)
(stage right)

We were next driven to our viewing spot for the Inaugural Parade:

(on your right, the presidential viewing box)

 (our view behind bleachers, oh yeah)

(I can't decide if I felt safe or scared with all those rifles)

Finally, onward to.... The Ball! 

(main room)
(I really wanted to show off my shoes)
(Katy Perry doing her thing)
(Dupont Circle VIP room)

So, what did we drink at The Ball?  Patriotic event = domestic wines.  Black tie event = sparkling wine.  Put those together and I'm drinking Woodbridge Brut sparkling wine from California.  It was simple and accessible: a little peachy, a little yeasty, small bubbles. But, as I'm drinking it at the Inaugural Ball, it's the finest champagne. 

The evening culminated with a private dessert reception at the Biden residence.  More wine, hors d'oeuvres, dessert, a dance floor, live band....

(our gracious after-party host)

....and a late-night performance by Darren Criss from Glee.

I'm grateful for wine.  I'm grateful because serves as another source of memory.  Beyond seeing pictures, beyond hearing songs, it's another sensory experience that can bring me back to this particular moment in my life.

Keep tasting....

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.

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.