New Hampshire Wineman, An "Old" man's Trek Into "Wine Country".
A Newbie Wine Taster's Photo-Journal of Finding, Tasting, and Reviewing Wines.
Considering the depth and experience of so many mature wine tasters, writers, and bloggers, Newbie is a reasonable and interesting title for someone beginning to blog (Who would care?). Claire Augustine put it this way: "Having said the newbie thing... when you really think about it, I think most of us wine drinkers that lean to the serious side are going to be newbies for a long time. There's just so much, and; we - and; the wine - are always changing."
That being said, the plain truth is that to taste a wine is to know a wine. Of course people with time and money can and do know wines even better when visiting vineyards, but ultimately In vino veritas (In wine is truth).
My journey began rather haphazardly (eeny meeny miny moe) in choosing a wine to taste. I bought books and magazines, but found it difficult wading though the many wine reviews, because way too often the wines reviewed could not be found in New Hampshire stores (I had no idea that Italy for example had a million wineries). So, I was off and headed toward the "trail-head" of wine-tasting all by myself.
Gray Birch (Betula populifolia)
I say trailhead because I compare my wine-tasting and reviews to the trail I've been blazing for five years out of the dense woods behind where I work. Me and my employer's two dogs (Shorty and Oreo) and a walking-stick. I've managed a seriously beautiful trail that winds it's way up three miles through the dense White pines, Eastern hemlocks, Red and White oaks, Hop hornbeams, and White as well as Gray birch trees. A trek that has afforded me glimpses of porcupines, Barred owls, Moose and White-tailed deer, as well as a coven of mushrooms, bouquets of wild-flowers, giant centipedes, slugs, and Garter snakes, but mostly it's the air bathing in the pouring rain, refreshing in the cold crisp winters, fragrant and pregnant with autumn smells, sensually magnificent on days of gentle and clean breezes most often experienced in the spring, and even in rather hot and buggy summer days with song birds as our ubiquitous and seasonal companions.
I could never make an asphalt highway (Wine Spectator), but a path (NHWM Blog) I can do.
New Hampshire Wineman, An "Old" man's Trek Into "Wine Country" is intended not so much a book of reviews, but of the beauty of wine, the vineyards, its people's blood, sweat, and tears, the earth, sun, air, water or lack of it, and the fruit itself, all evident in the "Vinification's" end product; that product usually appears to consumers as a bottle (a box anyone) with a label and filled with something precious to some or money to others, sometimes both. (We all have to make a living!).
My first review: I would like to compare: Green and Red 2007 Zinfandel (Napa Valley) $18.99 vs. Frog's Leap 2007 Zinfandel (Napa Valley) $20.39.
Green and Red 2007 Zinfandel was the first Zinfandel that I liked; not only did I like it, I loved it: Smooth with a LONG finish, not overpowering with odd flavors (CLEAN), but structured with rich berry and grape that goes well with tortillas or baby-back ribs, and having a nearly perfect black pepper finish. The most famous wine taster said: "I've never had a Green and Red that I did not like." This wine was from Chiles canyon AVA, and should be very drinkable now through 2015. This is a definite value, and would be at $30. I scored it 92 Points.
Frog's Leap 2007 Zinfandel has an almost strawberry color, sweet aroma with cinnamon and spice, having an excellent finish of spice, it was vibrant and lively, but it was soooo smooth, soooo drinkable that it was fortunate that its alcohol content was only 13.4%. I loved this Zin and as "The Wine Week" guys (No longer posting) would say: "it was a "Ripper". This Zin too was a value even at $30. I scored it 91 Points. I tasted this wine again on April 2, 2011 and had the same pleasure as the first time.
More than two years later the reviews looked like this: Green and Red Chiles Canyon Napa Valley 2009 Zinfandel, $23.99, 92 points, took some searching for, and at full price is still worth the effort.
Waves of the deep purple wine clung to the glass-wall, and welling dark to opaque gave this Zinfandel immediate impact.
Pleasant toasty notes, hints of savory and cinnamon made for an aromatic delight.
The medium body carried "velvet heat" (14.8 alcohol) with good acidity and moderate tannin.
Flavors of blackberry, pomegranate, licorice, and hints of coffee gave plenty of complexity.
Finished fine and smooth with trailing fruit, white and black pepper capped off this very nice wine.
Frog's Leap Napa Valley 2010 Zinfandel, $22.94-$28.99, 91 points, appeared dense ruby with an almost Shiraz purple color and a silver rimmed lining.
Followed by a generous, but balanced red and black cherry aroma and accented with mild sweet cooking spice.
This was like a Gamba Family Ranches Russian River Valley "Lite" Zinfandel, having a medium body with good acidity and mild tannin.
More floral flavored than other Frog's Leap Zinfandel wines I've tasted, but easy flavors of plum, blackberry, licorice, and unnoticeable alcohol (13.8%), made this a very good stand-alone wine, or paired with more traditional red-wine fare.
Finally, the long finish was mildly spiced with hints of eucalyptus.
As I was planning to review some Zinfandel wines, I posted an introduction by-way-of “Dance with the one who brung you”, and certainly Frog's Leap and Newbie Me were there.
As I delved/dived head-first into Zinfandel wines I quickly learned that there were relatively very few Zinfandel wines to taste in New Hampshire, which gave occasion for this post:
Eventually I began to taste other varietals. I realized that one reason I had veered into so many other wines, Italian varietals initiated my latest foray into the wine wilderness thanks to my guide Tuscan Vines, was that in New Hampshire there is a very limited variety of Zinfandel wines available, and though I do have several Zinfandel wines waiting to be tried, very few of them have me biting-at-the-bit to taste (cheap-unpromising Zins).
This is a perfect example of what New Hampshire Zinfandel lovers must face when it comes to variety: In the June issue of Wine Spectator Magazine, Tim Fish gave his current Top 16 Zinfandel Wines to drink NOW, and I have seen only one available in NH (Four Vine Paso Robles Biker). The Wine Spies reviewed 29 Zinfandel wines before I'd seen enough of our zin-scarcity; not a single one of those Zins having been seen by me in two years, and only 3 were familiar wineries. Now, that doesn't mean that some other Zins are not available here, but as one who hunts them down, I have not seen them. Keep in mind, that all five Primitivo (Italian Zinfandel) wines that I could find in New Hampshire, I bought, tasted, and reviewed.
Having had my "Eureka event" I'll move on to other varietals without apology. I do have all five bottles of Red Wine from Portugal that I could find, (tasting these should be fun), but once again, New Hampshire continues to unravel why I've started this blog: helping to aid friends and family who just want a good bottle of wine at a reasonable price, all-the-while I'm learning, and for me it is an adventure.
The other day a young lady at a sub-shop asked me about Red wine from Portugal, commenting that she couldn't find any, I was now on a mission, and so I bought her (Me) a bottle that came recommended ($7.99), and she loved it. However, not many of us want to go on a mission for a bottle of wine; I do! Ask me, and I'll check it out as best I can.
Occasionally I would meet another person walking her dog Harley on my trails and the 'fire-roads'; one day she was talking about how to pair Italian food with wine. So, I did this post for Sharon: Fattoria Del Cerro 2008 Vino Nobile di Montepulciano.
One of the wine-trailheads that was recommended to me by David Boyer and Sandra Crittenden was Bordeaux, but I needed all the encouragement I could get, because the obstacles of price and the plethora of choices were precipices I didn't want to venture; I'm grateful that I was pushed!
Past the glacial erratics of confusing labels and regions I managed to discover peaks of majestic vinification.
I'll never forget Château La Dominique Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Classé 2009 Bordeaux with all that harmonious spice, tannin, fruit, and acidity.
Styles of tasting wine come in many colors; what should concern newbies is finding what pleases them. I found/find that tasting wine is like telescoping my perspective: I get the big picture and draw-down my attention to specifics, sort of like these photographs:
Well, you get the picture!
Genesis means beginning, and the genesis of my interest in wine was a "what if" we had an emergency (we were without power for almost a week)? I mean a real emergency! We had some food, water, batteries, a coal stove with a thousand pounds of coal, and a portable radio, but when I began looking at the 'expiration dates' for even water, I was stunned to see that those dates hardly ever were longer than a year; so, I began thinking wine and why not? Every once in a while I would buy a bottle: "Oh, this jug of wine is only $4; I'll stash it in the basement!" Of course I eventuated upon the idea that not all wine keeps (remains reasonably potable); now the understanding of wine became important! Tasting wine would be called for. Following the Italians and French in understanding: Wine is "food" began to sink-in, and I naturally incorporated drinking wine with my meals; wine became a whole new 'world' to me.
Storage had its own analogous representations or parallels to the trail as well: Think cave, as in Euro-cave, as in wine refrigerator or cooler, and think temporary storage as in wine racks or. . . well, you get the picture! Keeping wine has its own problems, and if you want to keep "age-worthy" wines you'll want to keep them cool, dark, and with enough humidity as to not allow the corks to dry-out, but finding them after they've been put away can be a challenge too.
Remember, this is an adventure! Remember that most wines are meant to be drunk within three years after bottling, and some sooner! The 'keepers' generally cost more, are made in France and Italy, but every wine producing country has its own age-worthy wines, and when I think wines from California that age well I think Cabernet Sauvignon and Petite Sirah, but my first wines of affection, Zinfandel, has some that age well too.
The incredible age-worthy Ridge Zin:
In my wine-tasting genesis I wouldn't even touch a white wine, but when I came to a fork in the trail I took it. Jumping ahead to white wines and for a view of summits called (mount) Sauvignon Blanc and its vistas, I marveled at the mountain-range with its peaks and valleys.
Having gazed at the delicate power displayed in a non-stock item at the NHLS, I camped-out with this one: Round Pond Rutherford~Napa Valley 2013 Sauvignon Blanc.
I'm not purposely leaving-out Sauvignon Blanc from around the world, Sancerre (SB most often labeled from France) sings a love song of finesse and minerality, and New Zealand SB's which are lively citrus and Gooseberry, but I've had more Cali Sauvignon Blanc wine in the last month than all others combined.
Many of us do not have the ability to
travel the world, but one thing that wine facilitates better than most purchasable things is in bringing the world to you (me).
What I'm saying is that Spain for example has become very much a more 'real' place to me having begun tasting some of the best and most reasonably priced wines in the world.
From the white wines of the northwest region of Rias Baixas to the powerhouse reds of Priorat on the northeast, with one of the largest wine growing region of the world, La Mancha, dead-centered, and wine-region-craters across the whole country, with Rioja being the best known.
Mentioning wines of Spain does little more than implant an idea, maybe a picture, but hopefully it will lead to the flavors of Spain as well.
Spanish Wines, NHWM's work in progress:
Spanish Calatayud Red Wines
Spanish Campo de Borja (Aragon) Red Wines
Spanish Jumilla Red Wines
Spanish La Mancha Red Wines
Spanish Montsant Red Wines
Spanish Navarra Red Wines
Spanish Priorat Red Wines
Spanish Ribera del Duero Red Wines
Spanish Rioja Red Wines
Spanish Toro Red Wines
Spanish Vino De La Tierra De Castilla Red Wines
Spanish Yecla Red Wines
Another implantable idea is the people you'll meet along the way. I'm not forgetting wine producing countries like Argentina, Austria, Australia, or France's Burgundy and Bordeaux, Italy's Piedmont and Tuscany, I'll let them ferment, while early into this endeavor I want again to mention or remember some of the people that energized my trek.
Mentioned earlier is my first blogging-friend, Claire Augustine, and Tuscan Vines, but I want to mentioned: Bill Rosich, Vinogirl, Penny, Lisa, Jim(s), Paula, Janis, most of which it can be said are or were vintners. These are the people that come along-side and support, deepen, and often help to demystify without trivializing the wine experience.
Supermarket wine-shoppers are a group of some of the most fun people I've met; they often joyfully offer advice and take advice when purchasing wines, and as I frequently quip: "Wine people can be some of the nicest people you'll meet, and wine people are most often dog-loving people!" This anecdotal quip seems more a truism, but I don't want to be 'dogmatic' about it.
Claire deserves acclamation for her love of dogs, writing talent (when plied), wit, and for recommending one of the best value Cabernets I've yet tasted, among other suggestions: Waterstone Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon.
My son Ethan pushed me off a wine-cliff in Argentina, a cliff I'll label Malbec! I say 'pushed', because early-on my trek into wine tasting, I tasted a posted 92 point Malbec which I neither liked nor reviewed, and I read somewhere that plonk Malbecs are plentiful; I repressed my apprehension for years until Ethan on his own came to me with glowing reports of vistas I'd not seen of Argentina's very own flagship grape; fruity and spicy were descriptors a Zinophile could not ignore.
Divided from Argentina at South America's lumbar region of the Andes' spine is Chile's very own flagship grape growing regions; the Carménère red wine grape is a luscious, complex, and spicy red wine producing grape, often of high quality, and perfected in Chile (Some have had a hard time finding good producers). I recently stumbled onto this wine, and from my vantage-point, with great delight. Exploring these wines has seldom left me disappointed.
It's appropriate that I emphasize the role of wine as food. As a younger man I always lumped all alcoholic beverages together as mind-altering drugs. However after learning to treat wine as food, I've experienced the magnifying effects of properly pairing food and wine, the redounding enhancement of spiced ribs and a good Shiraz, oysters and Sauvignon Blanc, a rare porterhouse steak with a Cabernet Sauvignon, bright spicy Zinfandel at a barbecue and so forth.
I certainly don't want to forget the metaphors of sitting around a campfire after dinner and simple relaxing with a great dessert magnified by a great dessert wine or just a simple Moscato; this one took my warm pecan pie to new heights.
Another aspect of being fascinated with wine is the social aspect! Wine and being social is a 'marriage' made in the vineyards, whether in Napa, Bordeaux, or Tuscany, but also at the dinner table, wine tastings, or wine shopping!
I'm a home-body, but when it comes to shopping the isles of the wine section of the markets I come-out of myself and freely engage interested wine lovers; these are events that often lead to great fun.
Recently I met Danny who coined the phase: "Tablescapes" as a synonym to my décor gravitas. So I did that day's post dedicated to Danny!
Tablescapes and Achaval Ferrer Quimera
Early in my exploration of wines I met this lady, sorry I don't remember her name, was telling me she was having a Halloween party and wanted an apropos wine as a decorative adjunct to the festivities. That was a seed-change within my wine-presentation schemes. Since then I've done may posts with that theme in particular.
Halloween Wine and Décor
Milestones in one's life can be as exciting as Tom Brady wining another Super bowl or as provincial as my blog (NHWM) passing one million views; since I never thought that humble milestone would come to pass, for me and some friends and family it is cause for celebration. Here are the wines I'm bringing to the celebration (International wines are a must):
A little commentary:
Talking about wine, an angel's share of musing.
Talking about wine, does it preclude drinking it or does it facilitate drinking the stuff? Is the very mention of the questions counting the number of angels on a pin? As a bird watcher, I think bird watching is about looking out my window, listening to bird songs as I walk to my car in the morning on my way to work, but sometimes it's about focusing on one goal in mind: strapping on my binoculars, packing my bird guide(s), dressing for the occasion, and walking the woods, braving the beach for phalaropes and gannets, strolling along the river trails careening my head this way and that way, and even scoping-out the town dump for Ivory gulls.
What does this have to do with drinking wine? The idea that we must say wine is this and wine is that means little if anything at all; wine is what it is to individuals, all with their own motives, but just to be glib, let us say that wine is about a way of living, purely a beverage, a poor way to get inebriated, a complement to food, or even the paraphernalia of status, but whatever reason you drink wine, let us admit that for some of us, our interest in wine motivates us to strap on our camera, pack our trip brochures, adorn ourselves with touring vestments, and begin strolling the vineyards, the wine caves, and listening to the praises of the wine makers and hostesses, but don't forget: smelling, tasting, spitting, and just plain drinking wine, red wine, white wine, port, ice wine, rosé wine, etcetera, is the end goal. Yes, I think talking about wine facilitates drinking the stuff, and doing so with a greater understanding and appreciation is a good thing; after all, wine is more than "sunlight held together by water", it's you and me and Bobby McGee "from Kentucky. . . to the California sun."
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