Following on the success of our introductory wine seminar, Wine 101: Introduction to Wine Appreciation, Slate Wine Bar + Bistro is launching a series of wine tasting seminars focused on specific wine regions around the world, including France, Italy, California and Pacific Northwest, Australia and New Zealand, and Spain. We’ll start with sampling sparkling, white and red wines from areas all over France. This is a great way to become more familiar with the key places in France that lend their names to their wines (e.g. Burgundy and Bordeaux). Our France Tasting Seminar is on November 13th at 7 p.m. $25 person or sign up for all 5 Region I tastings for $100 (pay in advance on or before November 13th for discounted price). Additional tasting dates are: December 11th (Italy); January 15th (California and Pacific NW); February 12 (Australia and New Zealand); March 12th (Spain). Advanced reservations required. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to sign up or ask your server next time you visit us.
Last Thursday, I embarked on a several days of immersion into the world of Pinot Noir — Oregon style. The International Pinot Noir Celebration is a long-standing event that takes place in the small wine country town of McMinnville, Oregon at the end of every July. On the campus on Linfield College, Pinot producers selected by the IPNC showcase their wares to wine writers, distributors and buyers, and die-hard Pinot enthusiasts. My days in Oregon will provide material for many posts, but I thought I would provide a brief overview of my trip.
After landing in Portland, I had just enough time to drive to the Willamette Valley and arrive in time for a pre-IPNC dinner at Belle Pente Winery. Not only did we enjoy superb food in a gorgeous hilltop setting, we were also treated to wines from our host, Bachelder, and Domaine Henri Gouges. But that was just the warm up for what was to come!
Friday, at 9:15 a.m., a group of us piled into a bus to travel the backroads enjoying the bucolic scenery of the Yamhill region and ultimately arriving at Yamhill Valley Vineyards. After some Pinot Gris in the vineyards, we sat down to a serious discussion with winemakers from Yamhill Valley Vineyards, Felton Road, Cristom and Tyee to discuss decision-making during the winemaking process. With each winemaker’s description of their philosophies, we also enjoyed their wines. Then there was lunch, paired with wines from each of the participating wineries.
No sooner did we arrive back to campus, and it was time to enjoy the first of two “al fresco” tastings featuring the wines of all the participating wineries. Many of my favorites continued to impress including Hamacher, Brittan, Bethel Heights and Cristom. Oregon did a great job with the 2009 vintage which is lovely to drink right now. After sampling some 30-40 wines, it was time to sit down to dinner and to more wines!
Day two started at 9:30 with what I called the “Burgundy Breakfast” in a twitter post. I do love a grand cru before lunch! Lunch on day two was spent on campus and we enjoyed the company and wines of Hanzell from California as well as a number of other wines that made their way to our table. While a nap might have seemed in order, we pressed on after lunch to a seminar on cool climate Pinot Noir where I was able to yet again enjoy the wines from Felton Road. No rest for the weary — following our seminar we headed outside yet again to a white wine and cheese pairing where I enjoyed the Chardonnays from Greg LaFollette and had a “sekt” made by Chehalem. After a brief break to enjoy a salted carmel ice cream cone and watch “sabering” and other dangerous methods of opening champagne bottles, we headed to “al fresco” tasting number two. While the “grand finale” of the IPNC is typically the Salmon Bake, we enjoyed our grand finale on Sunday after a day of recuperation at the Allison Inn & Spa and dinner at Jory.
Needless to say, I slept well on the flight back today and I am eagerly working on lining up all of my new favorite Pinots for Slate’s wine list!
It may seem silly to ask about the color of rosé. It’s pink, right? But I find within the spectrum of “pinks” there is great variation and the shade or hue of pink in the bottle is a reasonably reliable indicator of what you can expect from the wine in the bottle.
My favorite rosés are a salmon color. They balance subtle cherry and strawberry fruit with herbal flavors of the garrigue (a scrub with rosemary and thyme flavors) of southern France and hints of minerality. They are utterly dry and are about as far as you can get from a White Zinfandel. They are typically made from Mourvedre, Carignan, Cinsault, Grenache and/or Syrah. This is the style that is classic for Provence.
Other rosés, such as some of those made from Tempranillo, can come in bright pink packages that speak to the juice of fresh strawberries and have similar aromas and flavors. Fresh and bright fruit flavors are the star. They are almost like mini red wines.
Unfortunately, it has less to do with the grape variety than it does with the winemaker’s style, the method used to make the wine, and the place the wine is from. One way to simplify finding new rosés you’ll enjoy is to track the color of the ones you like best and see if there is a consistent trend. If so, this may be an easy way to spot new bottles that you are likely to enjoy.
There are always exceptions to any rule. I just found a bright pink rosé of Zinfandel that I love! So keep exploring too.
Today, July 14th, is Bastille Day. There are a dizzying array of French wines to celebrate the holiday, but I think the wines of the Loire Valley are perfect for summer and often overlooked by wine drinkers. If you are not familiar with these wines, today is a good day to experiment.
If you like sparkling Moscato, give a sparkling Vouvray a try. If you drink your fair share of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc, try a Sancerre or Pouilly-Fume. If you want a lighter style red wine that tastes good in heat, try a slightly chilled Chinon. For dessert, finish off with a glass of Quarts de Chaume. With one exception, the Loire offers something to suit everyone tastes.
The one exception is for those who are in the mood for a big red wine. There are much better places to go looking for a heavyweight red in France, particularly in areas further south than the Loire, such as Bordeaux, the Rhone or the Languedoc.
Whether from the Loire or another region of France, raise a glass to “Liberty, Equality, Fraternity” this Bastille Day!